Through A Glass Darkly: Finding values in stemmed tools from New Britain, Papua New Guinea
Paul T Dickinson (University of Leicester)
Between about 5000 and 3500 years ago hunter-gatherers in New Britain were making big obsidian blades and knapping tangs or stems out of the platform end, presumably to attach a haft. My PhD research assemblage of 154 artefacts is morphologically varied but does contain several distinct sub-types differentiated by stem design. One particular group of about 40 stems stands out. Found quite close together, these stems were more intensively worked and are markedly more consistent in dimension and proportion than all of the other sub-types. Each of these artefacts has been broken at virtually the same place; across the narrow stem–blade junction. The assemblage includes some blades but contains no blades broken from these stems. Are these stems manufacturing failures? Use-wear, including the discovery of use characteristics not previously reported on obsidian, shows that these stems had been hafted before being broken, and then discarded in somewhat close proximity to each other. What was going on in Mid-Holocene New Britain?
Stainton West, Carlisle, Cumbria: Lithic Assemblage
Antony Dickson, Oxford Archaeology North
Excavations along the route of the Carlisle Northern Development Route (CNDR), Carlisle, Cumbria, recovered an extensive Late Mesolithic lithic assemblage from a site on the southern banks of the River Eden at Stainton West. The majority of lithic assemblage was recovered from a grid square excavation area and was associated with negative features and a stratigraphic sequence. The worked stone assemblage comprises over 300,000 pieces, which represent all stages of the reduction processes, including a collection of over 5000 microliths. It also reflects the use of a variety of raw materials, such as cherts, flints and tuff. The total retrieval of all worked stone from the grid squares and chronological modelling has allowed us to understand a complex sequence of occupation at the site, which started in the early 6th millennium cal BC. The presentation will focus on the results from a detailed lithic analysis, material sourcing studies, microwear analysis and the spatial distribution of the worked stone, in order to provide a narrative on the site occupation record and its wider implications.
Using Wood Mechanics to Understand the development of the Neolithic Axe
Roland Ennos (University of Hull)
Wood is amongst the strongest and toughest of biological materials, yet armed only with hafted stone axes and adzes, early people were able to manufacture a wide range of sophisticated wooden structures and tools. Here I present the results of both theoretical analyses and experimental tests on the forces needed to split green wood. The results shed light on the development of Neolithic axe heads, from sharp flaked blades to smooth ground blades. They can also help us understand the design of axe hafts
Re-Framing the Transition Between Palaeolithic Reductive Stone Tools and Hafted Technologies: An Observational Analysis of the Relationship Between the Two Types of Tool-Making Activity and Their Underlying Cognitive Processes
Joanna Fairlie BA Cantab., BSc, MSc, PhD Student (Univeristy of Liverpool)
Professor Lawrence Barham (University of Liverpool)
A new analytical method is being developed to assess changes in the cognitive loading imposed by different types of tool-making. The method has its roots in models applied by Occupational Therapists to analyse how variations between cognitive and motor components across tasks affect the outcomes of goal-directed activity. Here it is used in a pilot study to examine changes in the network of cognitive and motor components underlying the transition between reductive and hafted (combinatorial) tool technologies.
An expert knapper was filmed producing in sequence an Oldowan core and flakes; a flake blank worked into a handaxe; and a Levallois core and flakes. Two professional hafted tool makers were also filmed each making two distally cleft-hafted tools. The activities were observed and coded using a set of 30 established variables. Each variable represents a type of behaviour necessary for structuring goal-directed activity. The combined levels at which they appear during any task in question determines the effectiveness with which the activity can end in goal-achievement. Patterns in the representation of the variables across tasks were identified which showed both a continuity of change across all tasks at one level, and a marked difference between reductive and combinatorial technologies at another. This analytical approach is able to discriminate clearly between different tasks and offers a platform for analyzing cognitive change. A refined version of the method has potential for use with an expanded range of tasks in both qualitative and quantitative formats.