6. Raw Materials, Tool Use and Transportation

Raw material studies are important for Mesolithic research for three main reasons. Firstly, chipped stone tools clearly show the procurement and transportation or exchange of material. For example, all lithics found in the Central Pennines necessarily must have been brought in, as the bedrock in this area is Millstone Grit and the flint and chert came from karstic areas elsewhere (Fig. 1). Secondly, raw material morphology and quality is known to affect tool size and technology (e.g. Toth 1985; Preston 1999). Thirdly, raw material size and quality, as well as consumption, influence mobility patterns proportionally with distances from the source (see Fig. 5). For instance, in other areas researchers have modelled and demonstrated that the amount of material a group exploited is directly proportional to the distance from the source and time since the last visit to it (Ingbar 1994). In another study the number of retooling events was seen to be the significant factor, not distance (Hoffman 1992); as the number of retooling events increased (since visiting the quarry), the proportion of cores decreased, and the proportion of blanks increased. Similarly Ricklis and Cox (1993) and Andrefsky (1998) have demonstrated for many environments that with increased distance from the raw material source, the number of formal tools decreases, the blank:tool ratio decreases (i.e. less waste/debitage left unmodified), the number of utilised flakes increases, the average blank/tool length decreases, and the proportion of retooling increases.

Figure 5 Figure 6

Figure 5: Fall-off gravity model relating to lithic attributes and distance (after Bamforth 1986; Hoffman 1992; Ricklis and Cox 1993; Ingbar 1994)
Figure 6: A contingency table illustrating the relationship between lithic raw material abundance and quality with tool types manufactured (after Andrefsky 1998)

All these aspects are summarised in a gravity fall-off model (Fig. 6) to show how the composition of raw materials and the technology in an assemblage can be influenced by mobility patterns and vice versa.


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