|Full cortex on dorsal side of an Edwards chert spall|
I was going over a few lithic coding sheets in preparation for upcoming field projects and though I'd check a few things out while making a point for an upcoming test on the blog. Lithic coding sheets often appear very standardized, issuing group designations based on aggregate analyses and specific attribute analyses. In following all the steps outlined in our code sheets we become comfortable that we are approaching the collection in an appropriate and meaningful manner, and that our hard work is time well spent in illustrating prehistoric behavioral patterns. Our education and patience often pays off and lets us discuss patterning in mobility, cost-benefit decisions and different traditions of learning and acting.
|Ventral side with no cortex|
|Scatter of platform prep flakes|
So that's problem number 1, that the method, while potentially helpful is often subjective. Problem number 2 is that flakes that would appear to be primary, secondary and tertiary flakes (ie, early, middle and late stage) may all be produced at the same time. Often small chips that we would consider to be "resharpening flakes" are created during platform preparation for larger cortical flake removals. So, While the goal may be a single large cortical flake removal from a biface, a higher volume of smaller flakes has been created in doing so. This pattern would perhaps lead us to classify a location as a logistical site due to a higher ratio of non-cortical to cortical flakes. The flakes produced in this case may mask the actual intention of the stone work.
|The mixed nature of cortex/non cortex|
So...what then. How do we asses stages of production!? Isn't that a meaningful measure to infer mobility? Yep, I still believe that understanding how and when individuals decide to further reduce stone is important. Careful disclosure of what percentage one calls primary and secondary flakes is essential for consistent measures and can offer valuable information regarding where people are choosing to carry out specific parts of stone tool production. Yet I also see larger importance in attempting this maneuver in a way that accepts the complex nature of flake production, where flake morphology can rarely indicate discrete "stages", but are rather a part of a continuum where multiple morphologies may be produced in a mixed fashion.
|Finished dart point|
Check out the video to see what I mean. Flakes of all different cortex measures are created well into the process. Send me your thoughts as to how we might make better sense of this dilemma. I have opinions too, don't worry.
For more info on the problems associated with a strict adherence to primary, secondary and tertiary flake stages and distinctions between the types check out:
Andrefsky Jr., William. 2005. Lithics: Macroscopic Approaches to Analysis. Cambridge Manuals in Archaeology. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.
Draper, John A and Gordon A. Lothson. 1990. Test excavations at 10NP143 and 10NP292, Lower Clearwater River, West Central Idaho. Project Report 12. Pullman:Center for Northwest Anthropology, Washington State University
Sullivan, Allen P. and Kenneth Rozen. 1985. Debitage analysis and archaeological interpretation. American Antiquity. 50: 755-79