Cinciliths: A new term describing systematic small-unretouched tool production

Author(s): Justin Pargeter

Year: 2016


The term “microlith” has grown to include a range of small tool technologies beyond those for which it was originally intended (small retouched geometrics). This definitional dilemma has resulted in a loss of precision in studies of technological miniaturization. Miniaturization includes the production and use of small-unretouched flakes from small cores. This paper proposes a new term for this phenomenon, Cinci-liths (Cinci: isiXhosa for small) that solves the problem of distinguishing these tools from those currently subsumed under the term "microliths". The term is neither region nor time specific, but is intended to identify and describe broader processes of miniaturization in unretouched toolkits. The paper presents a case study detailing a Cincilith assemblage containing small unretouched flakes (c. < 1 cm) and small cores (c. < 0.1 g) made during the terminal Pleistocene (c. 12-14 Ka calBP) at Ntloana Tšoana rockshelter in Lesotho. Analogous Cincilith assemblages are reported from elsewhere in this region suggesting that such toolkits were in widespread use during the Late Pleistocene in southern Africa. The antiquity of these processes of toolkit miniaturization remains unknown, but not unknowable. Using appropriate terminology combined with statistical and size-based approaches to defining and quantifying Cincilith assemblages easily solves this problem.

Cite this Record

Cinciliths: A new term describing systematic small-unretouched tool production. Justin Pargeter. Presented at The 81st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Orlando, Florida. 2016 ( tDAR id: 404188)


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min long: -18.809; min lat: -38.823 ; max long: 53.262; max lat: 38.823 ;