Summary | Introduction | Method of Analysis | Sample for analysis | Results of the functional analysis | Analysis of the functional results | Statistical analysis of use-wear data | Ethnographic data | Users | Change in edge angles | Relations between the four phases | Discussion

6.11 Discussion

The statistical analysis of all functional variables and the comparison of these with the ethnographic data has provided some important clues for understanding archaeological use-wear traces and the use of unretouched flakes. The overall size and shape of a flake are important factors in their selection, but edge angle is even more important. The correlation between low edge-angled pieces and working soft material, and wide edge-angled pieces and hard materials, is clear. The traces that occur on the tool's edge are related exclusively to the raw material the tool was used on, there was no correlation between the amount of time used and the development of traces. Polish was the single most important use-wear trace in determining use. No polish 'types' were detectable (cf. Keeley 1980), rather it was the extent of its development, the distribution type and its invasiveness on the used edge. The final clustering of like tools is interesting as there is a correlation between the groups and raw material worked on. It suggests that, archaeologically, it should be possible to create functional groups, based on similarities of use-wear traces, and that these groups should reflect the working of different raw materials.

At the beginning of this section, five questions were asked. Attempts to answer these questions can be found below.

In answer to the first two questions – 'what is the relationship between the use of a tool and its edge damage' and 'what are the criteria which best reflect this relationship?' – it is evident that there is a relationship between use and edge damage, based on identifiable use-wear traces, in particular polish, and also certain morphological characteristics. A certain amount of ambiguity exists, particularly in relation to use on similar raw materials (e.g. different types of woody plants). Potentially, by refining the detection method, it should be possible to improve the detection of use on woody-type plants.

The criteria that best reflect a tool's use are a combination of morphological ones related to the artefact and its edge, and the use polish found on the worked edge. No patterns were detectable using macro or microfractures.

The third question – 'are there any other factors, such as morphology, individual user or amount of time used, involved in the production of use-related edge damage?' – is already part answered; morphology does play a significant part. There is no evidence that the amount of time a tool is used has an effect. Contrary to expectations, tools used for longer do not have more developed polish patterns (Table 18). Polish patterns relate to the material worked on.

Table 18. The number of tool surfaces with various extents of polish development after different times of use
Time (seconds) A A+ B B+ C
50-325 2 3 7 5 3
373-542 2 2 10 5 0
543-628 5 1 7 5 2
633-795 1 4 12 0 2
797-989 2 4 9 1 2
1100-2220 2 3 10 5 0

The fourth question – 'is it possible to detect variability in use damage on the basis of either individual user or physical type?' is partially answered in that, while there were certain differences according to the way individuals selected and used their tools, there is no evidence that use-wear varies according to the physical build of the user. Individuals use tools in different ways and it may potentially be possible to detect individual patterns of use in an archaeological context.

The fifth question – 'do users unconsciously select artefacts on the basis of any morphological criteria, either related to the whole artefact or the edge, to undertake specific tasks?' – is answered above in the assessment of edge angles (Table 16). Artefacts are selected for a given task predominantly according to the size of their edge angle. Examination of the length of the edge and the length of the whole artefact in relation to task and to user showed no clear patterns except that bamboo and butchery tools had much longer edge lengths than other tools (Table 6).

Plate 72 72
Prodding hair into a wig

One aim of this section was to assess how much information we could obtain from the assemblage, by studying it with only the data that an archaeologist would have. It is encouraging to note that most archaeological conclusions were correct, though fairly simplistic. The tools yielded a small amount of information on the culture that produced them, though clearly much remained undetected. Who would ever have imagined, for example, that tree fern pins, made using stone tools, were used as wig prodders (Plate 72)? The functional analysis provided a new level of understanding of the tools in this study by showing which ones have been used and on what type of raw material and has given indications as to the nature of some of the work carried out in the site. It has altered the status of the assemblage from being a group of flakes and cores indistinguishable from so many others, to a series of individual pieces, each with its own history.


© Internet Archaeology/Authors

Last updated: Wed Oct 8 2003