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by Archaeology Newsroom

The study of stone tool industries

Chiseled stone tools are records of human activity. They were invented by Homo habilis, about 2.6 million years ago, along with his bipedal character, which is, of course, a preceding stage of development.The above two events as well as the enlargement of the anthropoid’s brainpan are considered today as the three basic features of the evolution and gradual development of the human species. For this reason the study of stone tool industries, which appear in every Palaeolithic site and represent 99% of the archaeological material, is a crucial step for the understanding of the intelligence, behaviour, activities and social structures of the humans who lived during the Palaeolithic period. The first handling of this material goes back to the 16th century AD, when stone tools found in Italy were recognized as human products. The study of Prehistoric stone industries evolved quickly since. The problems and objectives in the study of stone tool industries reflect the most representative intellectual conditions in each period as well as the influence of its scientific trends on these studies. Today the research and study of the stone tool industries are organized into four major sectors, which, however, have not developed at the same rate.The raw material sector aims at defining the quality of the raw stone material chosen and used by Palaeolithic man for making his tools, the sector also traces sources and investigates the procedures used for supplying and distributing the raw material. The technology sector examines technical procedures followed during all stages of the making of stone tools, from the flaking of the raw material to the final creation of an object. Its objective is to reconstruct “the technical chain” and to determine the position of stone findings within it.

The typology sector takes into consideration the different shapes of stone finds, especially of tools, and introduces types, the listing of which permits their chronological and cultural categorization. The technology sector locates and analyzes under a microscope, the deteriorations caused by time on stone tools, which, when effected by human activity, are called “utilization traces”. Experimental Archaeology makes a decisive contribution to different areas of research and to the study of the stone tool industries of the Palaeolithic period.