Controlled Experiments in Lithic Technology and Function

Part of: Society for American Archaeology 82nd Annual Meeting, Vancouver, BC (2017)

Investigating how stone tools were produced and used by hominins is one of the key research areas in the study of the evolution of human behavior. Over the last decades, paleoanthropological research has focused on diverse aspects of stone tool-related behaviors of past humans, such as the procuring of raw materials, manufacturing techniques, the manipulation of physical proprieties (e.g., heat treatment), and actual tool use.

Experiments have long been used to address these different aspects, aiming to replicate the manipulation of different types of rocks in 'laboratory'-like, forensic settings. Controlled experiments try to improve archaeological interpretations by isolating different physical or chemical factors for a better understanding of which and how different variables affect final results. Further, controlled experiments are designed to improve the identification, measurement, and analysis of all the involved variables and. This session focuses on state-of-the-art research using controlled experiments in both lithic technological (production-related) and functional (use-related) studies. The session's primary aim is to explore different methodological protocols and standards as well as to address research questions aimed at interpreting the archaeological record. A secondary aim is to create awareness of controlled experiments as a valid and important tool in archaeological methodology.

Resources Inside This Collection (Viewing 1-8 of 8)

  • Documents (8)

  • Assessment of lateral edge grinding on hafting performance using experimental Clovis points (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Metin Eren. Angelia Werner. Crystal Reedy. Andrew Kramer.

    In the 1930s, F. H. H. Roberts proposed that lateral basal grinding was executed on Paleoindian projectile points to limit damage to the lashings that attached them to their shafts. This assumption is logical and widely accepted, but remains empirically untested. Here, we present an experiment that examines the role of lateral basal grinding in replica Clovis projectile points made of Texas chert. We compare via controlled ballistics experiments large samples of points with lateral edge grinding...

  • The ballistic performance of prehistoric weapons: first results of a comparative study. (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Justin Coppe. Veerle Rots. Marc Pirlot. Valérian Clarenne.

    Projectile points have recently taken a prominent position in debates on the complexity of Paleolithic human behavior. While the appearance of hunting weapons in the archaeological record was a central element in early discussions, the debate has shifted towards the appearance of specific projecting modes. Given that the organic propulsion tools (bow, spear-thrower) are only rarely preserved, energy has been invested in experiments to explore how the projecting mode can be identified based on...

  • Bipolar reduction and lithic miniaturization: experimental results and archaeological implications (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Justin Pargeter. Metin Eren.

    Lithic miniaturization, the systematic production and use of small tools from small cores, was a consequential development in Pleistocene lithic technology. Bipolar reduction is an important but often overlooked and misidentified strategy for lithic miniaturization. This experiment addresses the role of axial bipolar reduction in processes of lithic miniaturization. The experiments answer two questions: what benefits does axial bipolar reduction provide, and can we distinguish axial bipolar...

  • Chert vs quartzite edge reduction using a mechanical device and its relevance to lithic raw material variability, selection and use (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Joao Marreiros. Telmo Pereira. Rui Martins.

    Lithic raw materials diversity in archaeological assemblages is used to address a multiplicity of fundamental questions concerning the evolution of human behavior. Technological systems are considered to be the result of conscious human choices, likely related to different types of rocks characteristics, performance and effectiveness. To test this model, we developed an experimental program using hand-knapped standardized blades on quartzite and chert in an upgraded version of a mechanical...

  • The effects of exterior and lateral platform morphology and raw material on flake size and shape: results from new controlled experiments (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only George Leader. Aylar Abdollahzadeh. Sam Lin. Harold Dibble.

    Previous controlled experiments have illustrated that exterior platform angle and platform depth have a strong influence on the size and shape of a flake. Using specially made cores and a hydraulic knapping machine we present results from two new controlled experiments. The first of these involves altering the exterior and lateral margins of the platform and seeing the effects these changes have on flake mass in relation to platform depth. In the second controlled experiment, glass cores...

  • Evaluating the effect of force and duration on lithic use­wear using a force­ and impedance ­controlled robot (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Radu Iovita. Johannes Pfleging. Jonas Buchli.

    Use­wear analysis relies on the strength of the analogy between microscopic wear patterns produced in laboratory experiments and those present on archaeological tools. Unfortunately, the physical processes that control the production of these patterns, both in the lab and in the past, are subject to complex interactions. One approach to reducing this complexity is to isolate factors (duration, material properties, or dynamics) that influence wear patterns and try to identify their...

  • Functional Implications of Backed Piece Variability for Prehistoric Weaponry in the Middle Stone Age (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Benjamin Schoville. Jayne Wilkins. Kyle Brown. Simen Oestmo. Terrence Ritzman.

    MSA backed pieces are often thought to be components of projectile armaments, however our limited understanding of their functional characteristics as projectiles precludes understanding the adaptive problems they may have solved. Despite widespread acknowledgment of raw material differences and inter- and intra-assemblage morphological variability, whether backed piece morphology reflects functional, economic, or stylistic variation has a paucity of empirical support. Here, the functional...

  • Silcretes from Nearby Sources Display Different Responses to Rapid Heating: Implications for Models of Early Human Heat Treatment (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Alex Mackay. Sam Lin. Lachlan Kenna. Alex Blackwood.

    Heat treatment of silcrete in the Middle Stone Age of southern Africa has been taken to indicate cognitive complexity. This inference is based on the argument that silcretes require well-regulated heating and cooling rates to avoid thermal fracture. Alternative arguments have been made that silcrete can be heat treated with limited control over temperature gradients, and thus that heat treatment may have been a relatively simple process. These apparently contrasting positions elide the fact that...