In Search of a Quarry – a pXRF examination of chemical variation in chert from South Central California.
Clare Bedford, David Robinson, Jennifer Perry.
Chert in South Central California is available from a range of sources, each of which is formed by asimilar process and shares broadly similar composition. Different types of chert including Temblor, Franciscan and Monterey have been identified by visual examination. This paper examines the chemical variation between these different chert types, and between different geographical sources within a particular chert type. Principal Component Analysis of portable X-Ray Fluorescence data from samples of Temblor, Franciscan and Monterey chert was used to establish a method for differentiating between chert materials, and this method was applied to lithic artefacts from the Wind Wolves Preserve in order to determine the chert material used and present its possible sources.
Depicting and visualising lithic artefacts – towards an immersive experience?
Lawrence Billington (University of Manchester)
Donald Horne (Cambridge Archaeological Unit)
Illustration/graphic representation is an essential part of reporting on lithics artefacts and assemblages. Early studies of lithics in the late nineteenth century depicted artefacts in a variety of media, from line drawings and engravings to watercolours and photographs. Over the course of the twentieth century, however, depictions of lithics came to be dominated by line drawings, created according to a set of specific conventions which allow the technological or typological ‘reading’ of individual pieces. The strength of these depictions lies in their unambiguous depiction of flake scars, secondary modification and other subtle traits, which can rarely be adequately captured by photographs or more naturalistic depictions. There are, however, disadvantages to these overtly stylised illustrations, including a neglect of the colours, condition and textures of lithic materials, as well as the privileging of a strictly planar, two dimensional, view which implicitly encourages and perpetuates certain ways of classifying and conceptualising lithic artefacts.
This paper presents some preliminary work on exploring new and readily accessible techniques for the photographic recording of lithic artefacts which offer alternative and complementary ways of depicting lithic artefacts. Our examples use RTI (Reflective Transformative Imaging) and Photogrammetry, both of which produce interactive images or models of artefacts which can be manipulated and interrogated by multiple end users. We suggest that techniques such as these have much to offer in terms of the recording and dissemination/presentation of lithic assemblages. In particular, the use of interactive images and media is encouraging us to think more widely about alternative platforms for the presentation of lithic artefacts beyond conventional reports and publications.
Geochemical provenancing of flint within Britain and Ireland: comparison of inductively coupled plasma-mass spectrometry (ICP-MS) and portable X-ray fluorescence (pXRF)
Seosaimhín Bradley, (PhD, University of Central Lancashire)
Provenancing studies have enormous potential to inform our understanding of the past through the identification and reconstruction of procurement and exchange of raw materials and finished artefacts. The revelation of the origins of metals, stone, glass, as well as human remains, has provided some of the most fascinating (and headline-grabbing) research of recent years. Stone tool provenancing (e.g. Implement Petrology Group) has revolutionised our understanding of the procurement and transport of many different lithologies within and between Britain and Ireland, however similar studies of flint have been sporadic, or narrower in focus. Established methodologies for provenancing flint are reliant on macroscopic characteristics – such as colour – which can be fraught with problems. As part of a PhD project at the University of Central Lancashire, geochemical provenancing of flint was investigated using two analytical methods: inductively coupled plasma-mass spectrometry (ICP-MS), and portable X-ray fluorescence (pXRF). The practical and analytical advantages and disadvantages of each of these methods will be outlined, as well as their suitability for archaeological application. The results of a broad-scale flint provenancing study using both ICP-MS and pXRF will be discussed, highlighting successful discrimination between flint-producing chalk geologies, as well as identifying areas where further work is needed.
Empirically Assessing Language Ability from Lithic Assemblages
Cory M. Cuthbertson and Christian S. Hoggard
A recent stone knapping experiment assessed the different morphological characteristics of stone tool manufacture transmitted by emulation, imitation, or teaching. It was designed to link a) modes of cultural transmission in stone tool manufacture to b) required theory of mind ability to c) correlated linguistic ability. Capturing and assessing variability and tool standardization in a Palaeolithic assemblage can implicate specific cognitive capacities in a crucially empirical way. Twenty-four novice knappers replicated handaxes from standardized porcelain blanks, and learned by either emulation, imitation, or teaching. The 240 handaxes were then two-dimensionally scanned, and plotted with equi-distant semi-landmarks before being standardised for rotation, orientation and size (Procrustes superimposition). These outlines were then analysed through a combination of Elliptical Fourier (Kuhl and Giardina, 1982) and Principal Component Analyses, with the principal component scores of the harmonics used for multivariate statistical analyses. Results suggest that the mode of cultural transmission influences the level of variability in the shape of the lithics. This information can be used to determine what level of standardization can be reached only by higher fidelity modes of cultural transmission, or what tools types demand higher fidelity modes for their transmission.
The relevance of this for detecting language ability in lithics is that theory of mind (ToM, the ability to consider others’ mental states) and language are intimately linked, both functionally and developmentally, to the point that they are predictive of the other’s ability (Miller, 2006), and some suggest a likely coevolution (Malle, 2002). In this way, ToM can be used as a proxy for language ability in the archaeological record. Discriminating between modes of cultural transmission in the archaeological record is important because it identifies cognitive abilities which must be present to operate. As language ability and ToM ability are correlated, and ToM enables different modes of cultural transmission, and the mode of cultural transmission impacts rates of copy error in material culture, we can measure inter-assemblage variability to deduce language ability amongst Palaeolithic populations.