Degree Year


Document Type

Thesis - Open Access

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts




Linda Grimm


Lithic, Raw, Materials, Tool, Heat treatment


A lithic technology consists of a set of techniques for shaping and working stone, and a knowledge of the properties and characteristics of the materials utilized. Lithic technology is the foundation of non-metallurgical cultures; stone is directly used in making many types of stone tools as well as indirectly in fashioning tools from other substances. Lithic technology is an important aspect for the archaeologist to study, if only for the practical consideration that on most prehistoric sites, stone tools and debitage are the only material culture preserved. Reconstruction of the lithic system aids not only in the technological interpretation of a prehistoric society. As technology is interconnected with other aspects of culture, it can be used to infer spatial patterning of activities, connections between groups through the study of long distance trade in lithic raw materials, and aspects of social organization.

This paper is concerned with one facet of lithic technology. Because a knowledge of the working properties of lithic raw materials is prerequisite to the effective manufacture and use of stone tools, changes in the characteristics of the stone will cause concurrent changes in the rest of the technology. Heat treatment is the intentional alteration of properties of stone through controlled heating and cooling. These physical changes are exploited by selectively heating raw materials to allow the more efficient manufacture and subsequent use of tools. Heat treatment can be used to change a poor quality stone into a more workable material. In particular, heating increases the ease and control of knapping. Soft percussion and pressure flaking techniques may be used on a stone which would be difficult to flake in the natural state. Controlled knapping of heat altered material produces larger forms, in general, than knapping of similar forms of untreated material. Heated material may be flaked to a thinner tool edge, and the resultant tool may therefore be more efficient for cutting tasks. Heat treatment of lithic raw materials thus redefines the local resources deemed usable by the flintknapper, and increases the control and sophistication of the technology.

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Anthropology Commons