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Lithic Analysis

Boyce Driskell (ARL Director and Research Professor) and Jan Simek (Distinguished Professor) offer varied expertise and research leadership in stone tool analyses. Driskell teaches the undergraduate and graduate course in Lithic Analysis and is also a skilled microwear analyst. Simek has worked for many years in the Paleolithic archaeology of Europe and has supervised many graduate students in Old and New World lithic research. ARL faculty and staff offer processing and analytic services to the CRM community, which include tool function, tool assemblage analysis, debitage analysis, materials source studies, and database applications.

lithicslabTool function: Microscopic traces of wear on the edge of a stone tool are often distinctive hints to the actual use of the tool when observed by an expert microwear analyst using the proper equipment. Microscopy at the ARL includes state of the art stereoscopic and incident light microscopes, the latter with Brightfield, Darkfield, and Differential Interference Contrast (DIC) capabilities. The lab also maintains a large comparative collection of experimental specimens useful for identification of wear traces on archaeological specimens. Analyses scaled for individual tools up to complete site assemblages can be designed to address research questions posed by our clients.

Tool assemblage analysis: Stone artifacts are the end products of tool manufacture and use. The unique morphology of each artifact in the assemblage results from technological constraints as well as stylistic canons. Lithic analysts at ARL are well versed in various prehistoric tool technologies of the Eastern Woodlands, allowing our analysts to sort prehistoric stone assemblages into categories of products and by-products of manufacturing (tools and debitage). Additionally, we can sort artifact assemblages into temporal and cultural categories when commonly recognized styles for Eastern Woodlands prehistoric tools are found.

lithicduopictureDebitage Analysis: By-products from the manufacture of stone tools are often referred to as debitage. Detailed debitage analysis can produce important data on tool technologies and production modes. ARL staff can conduct mass (aggregate) analysis of debitage samples, using standard sieve sizes or those specified by our clients. Our trained analysts can also conduct attribute analyses of individual flakes. These studies can be customized to respond to the needs and budget of each client.

Materials Source Analysis: ARL maintains an expanding comparative collection of chippable stone from known locations in the region in order to provide identifications of material sources of chipped stone tools and debitage.

Database Applications: ARL has developed and uses a unique relational database to store attribute data on stone tools and debitage, which allows us to store and manipulate large data sets in order to provide data in a format needed by each of our clients. Click here to view a .pdf example.

ARL Staff

  • Boyce Driskell Ph.D
  • Michael Angst, MA
  • Matt Gage, MA

Consulting Staff

  • Jan Simek Ph.D, Distinguished Professor of Science, Department of Anthropology

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