Macro- and Microscopic Effects of Heating in Lithics: Potential Indicators of Human-Controlled Fire?

Author(s): Russell Cutts; Ervan Garrison; Douglas Crowe

Year: 2018


Outside of clear association of human activities and fire features (e.g., a constructed hearth and artifacts), a perennial challenge persists in linking human/hominin behavior to the control of fire. This particularly vexes ongoing investigations to determine early human-fire interaction(s). Although natural landscape fires can be intense, their tendency to move quickly may limit modifications in lithic material at ground level. Studies examining the effect(s) of heating tool-stone at different temperatures and durations may provide insights on the question of human-controlled fire. As opposed to heat-treating material for improved flakeability, we report here on analyses examining macroscopic and microscopic modifications of various tool-stone (e.g., basalt, chalcedony, ignimbrite, etc.) at 250°, 500°, 750° and 1000° Celsius, and at different durations of exposure. Results indicate that consistent effects in lithics heated in high-energy, discrete, long-duration events (i.e., campfire) may corroborate other lines of evidence suggesting human-controlled fire. In that lithics are both a predominant human artifact and preserve well in the record, these techniques—in concert with other advances in the study of human-controlled fire—may be valuable to archaeologists, and in particular paleoanthropologists investigating potential human-fire features in early sites.

Cite this Record

Macro- and Microscopic Effects of Heating in Lithics: Potential Indicators of Human-Controlled Fire?. Russell Cutts, Ervan Garrison, Douglas Crowe. Presented at The 82nd Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Washington, DC. 2018 ( tDAR id: 444149)

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Spatial Coverage

min long: -18.721; min lat: -35.174 ; max long: 61.699; max lat: 27.059 ;

Record Identifiers

Abstract Id(s): 20450