- 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.
Are They Artifacts at All?
Bulb of percussion, p.318
Extraction: Mines and Quarries
Stone Tool Manufacture
Oldowan industry, p.325
Levallois technique, p.325
Identifying the Function of Stone Tools: Microwear Studies
Microwear analysis, p.329
Other Unaltered Materials
Bone, antler, shell, and leather, p.334
Fiber microwear analysis, p.342
Non-Ferrous Metals, p.347
Alloying, pp.347, 349
Metallographic examination, p.348
Lost-wax technique, pp.349–50
Copper Production in Ancient Peru
Iron and Steel
Iron smelting, p.354