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Chapter Summary

  • The physical remains of humanly made artifacts form the bulk of the archaeological record. The artifacts that are found by archaeologists may not represent the range of objects actually used because certain materials preserve better than others. For this reason, stone tools and ceramics dominate the archaeological record. Objects made of fabric, cord, skin, and other organic materials no doubt date back to the very earliest archaeological periods but they rarely survive. The introduction of pottery in a culture seems to coincide with the adoption of a sedentary way of life.
  • Ethnography and ethnoarchaeology can shed light on questions concerning technology as many modern cultural groups make tools and pottery that are similar to those used in the past. Experimental archaeology also helps researchers understand how artifacts were made and what they were used for. Many archaeologists have become proficient in activities like stone tool manufacture for just this reason. Despite the indications offered by ethnography and experimental archaeology, only microwear studies can prove how a stone tool was used and what material it was used on.
  • Stone tools are often made by removing material from a core until a desired shape is obtained. The flakes removed from the core can also be used as tools in their own right. Long parallel-sided blades, however, dominate in some parts of the world. Because blades are removed from a core systematically a large number of tools can be produced while very little raw material is wasted.
  • Copper was the most important metal used in early times. The alloying of copper to produce bronze represents a significant step forward in metallurgical practice: the resulting alloy is both stronger and less brittle than copper alone. There are a variety of different methods by which metal and metal artifacts can be produced or manufactured. Casting using the lost-wax method was an important development.

Key Concepts

Are They Artifacts at All?

Eoliths, p.318
Bulb of percussion, p.318

Extraction: Mines and Quarries

Mines, p.321
Quarries, p.321

Stone Tool Manufacture

Core, p.325
Retouching, p.325
Oldowan industry, p.325
Levallois technique, p.325
Knapping, p.327
Refitting, p.329

Identifying the Function of Stone Tools: Microwear Studies

Microwear analysis, p.329

Other Unaltered Materials

Bone, antler, shell, and leather, p.334
Wood, p.337
Watercraft, pp.338–40
Textiles, pp.340–42
Fiber microwear analysis, p.342

Synthetic Materials

Pyrotechnology, p.342
Pottery, p.344
Temper, p.344
Kilns, pp.344–45
Faience, p.345
Glass, pp.345–46


Non-Ferrous Metals, p.347
Alloying, pp.347, 349
Metallographic examination, p.348
Casting, pp.349–50
Lost-wax technique, pp.349–50
Slag, p.352
Platinum, p.353

Copper Production in Ancient Peru

Tuyeres, pp.350–51

Fine Metalwork

Filigree, p.353
Plating, p.354

Iron and Steel

Iron smelting, p.354
Steelmaking, p.355