4. Methodological Background: the origins of the technique

Microwear analysis, as touched upon earlier, is most often used in a targeted fashion, with only a relatively small sample ever being studied. In our research, microwear analysis has been used to assess the complete lithics collection from March Hill, an approach which has not been attempted on any other Mesolithic site. Not only is this approach significant to March Hill, but its success could highlight a new technique that could be adopted at other sites. The methodology, developed by the Catalan-Argentine team, is based on a detailed form-functional analysis of lithic artefacts, drawing on a theoretical perspective derived from a Marxist focus on 'labour' integrated within recent approaches to social identity.

In this approach technology is viewed as a sphere of production deeply embedded in social practice; it comprises physical actions carried out by knowledgeable human agents acting and making decisions conditioned by their social context (Ingold 1997; Dobres 2000). Therefore, technology is considered to have an active role in social reproduction: it participates in the appropriation of indispensable resources for human life and it requires the transmission of knowledge about production and use of objects (Álvarez 2003). This implies that technological practices have an economic dimension, as they involve the organisation of human effort in order to transform the environmental conditions to fulfil social requirements. Labour is regarded as a key element of every economical dynamic, thus forming a basic element in the analysis.

Similarly, 'landscape' is created by transformations of environments by human societies. In this context recent approaches to lithics have focused on social identities, their relations, and landscape generation (Warren 2006), within which work strategies (or the energy invested by different individuals in producing and using materials) can be understood as social and economic elements.

This approach to lithic analysis has developed from recognition of the limitations inherent in traditional approaches, particularly those focused on formal tool categories, in developing an explanatory framework regarding past social dynamics (Finlay 2000b; 2003; Young 2000; Warren 2006). In contrast, rather than focus on finished tools and traditional typological categories, as a targeted approach would do, artefacts are considered based on the relationships between form, function, production and use.


© Internet Archaeology/Author(s) URL:
Last updated: Wed Jul 29 2009