Lithics Lab

Stone Tools

Stone Tools

Rubén G. Mendoza, PhD

Introduction: This exercise, like that of the Process Description and Ceramics activities and templates is intended to challenge you to describe a given stone tool or lithic artifact in one sentence or so. Because the field of lithic studies has developed a spectrum of terms to describe specific tool types on a site by site, regional, cultural, stylistic, and technological basis, this exercise will constitute but an abbreviated approach to stone tool description. So that we don’t scrimp on authenticity in our analysis, you will be provided an authentic assemblage of stone tools recovered from the Republican River of southern Nebraska. The tools in question span thousands of years of cultural evolution on the High Plains of North America.

Directions: In order to conduct this assignment, you will first assemble into groups of between four and six team members. Each team will be provided a collection of at least five individual stone tools for analysis. Your first task will be to record the numbers noted on the bag or bag tags identified with each tool. Once you have your assemblage in hand, please undertake the description of each specimen using the Lithics Analysis Template and Lithics diagrams provided. Your professor will first review the use of the Munsell Soils Color Chart provided for this day’s exercise.

1. Your team should first review both the Lithic Analysis Template and Lithics diagrams provided for a guide to key words and terms used in lithic analysis.

2. Having reviewed the template and diagrams, select the first artifact to undergo analysis and assessment, and proceed to match the form, surface treatments, material type, color, cross section and basal forms, and body treatments with those diagrams provided.

3. Where unsure of material types and the like, please ask your professor, or proffer your best guess…so long as you use the Munsell soils book to obtain an accurate color match.

4. Proceed to describe each stone tool in your collection on the basis of the sample descriptions provided at the top of your Lithic Analysis Template.

5. Once you have completed the description of all five stone tools, please select at least one, and or two, items for a much more detailed description that includes size, width-thickness-length ratios, and or flake terminology and the like.

6. Finally, please be sure to return the individual stone tool to the original numbered bag from which it was selected.

Terminology: The following terms constitute but a small cross section of the broader universe of likely tool types.

Primary Flake Blade Tool Core/Prismatic or Flaked
Unifacial Tool/Bifacial Tool Scraper/Chopper/Hand Axe Knife
Preform Projectile Point Burin/Graver