Stone age selectivity

1 minute read

I’m pointing this morning to a nice recent post by Brigid Gallagher, discussing the importance of raw material and processing steps for stone age technology: “Working With Stone, Connecting the Past”.

She writes from New Zealand, where toolmakers were working with a choice between ground stone and flaking techniques. Here’s a short excerpt on wastage:

An interesting aside to this that I like having witnessed many examples when I worked at the Auckland Museum, is when pounamu adzes break in the making. Instead of being able to quickly turn out a modified artefact, the original tool may be turned into a completely new artefact, such is the desire not to waste the stone This is often evident in the hei tiki. Along the base edge of many historic and prehistoric tiki examples, a short bevelled edge can be seen, where the pounamu was originally intended as an adze. It broke in the making, and was changed from a adze perform to a hei tiki.

Technology is not merely a series of steps, it is a way of organizing behavior. The flowchart can trigger a totally different cascade of actions than the stereotype or ideal. Flexibility of procedure coupled with a flexible choice of procedures makes the relation of intention and material very complex.