Backed Bladelet A microlith: a blade that has been truncated by microlithic retouch down one side. Backed bladelets have a rectangular plan and triangular cross-section.

Bipolar core A flint knapping term: bipolar cores are cores that were worked on an anvil. They were commonly used when flaking poor quality stone or opening small pebble nodules. Bipolar cores tend to be of a characteristic "scalar" shape. See Bipolar Technique.

Bipolar Technique A flint knapping term: a technique for the removal of flakes in which the core, or nodule, is seated on an anvil and struck from above with a hammerstone. The force of the blow produces a countershock from the anvil so that flakes are frequently detached from both ends simultaneously. Bipolar flaking does not involve the preparation of platforms and the cores tend to be of a characteristic "scalar" shape. There is less control over the shape of the flakes but it is a very useful technique, particularly where small pebble nodules form the only raw material.

Blade A stone tool. Blades are long and fine with sharp parallel edges and they were made using a specific knapping technique.

Bulb of Force A flint knapping term: the raised point on the ventral surface of a flake or blade, just below the platform. The bulb of force indicates the spot to which force was applied in order to make the flake. As a general rule, more pronounced bulbs of force suggest the use of harder stone hammers, while more diffuse bulbs suggest the use of softer hammers.

Calibration Radiocarbon analysis tends to provide dates that are too recent, but this can be corrected by calibration. Dates are therefore quoted either in radiocarbon years (uncalibrated), or in human years (calibrated), and they are often said to be "Before Present" (BP), which in fact means before 1950.

Chip A flint knapping term: chips are small irregular pieces of stone removed as a by-product of making tools. Most chips were waste, but some may have been used.

Chunk A flint knapping term: chunks are larger irregular pieces of stone removed as a by-product of making stone tools. Most chunks were waste, but some may have been used.

Cobble Tool A tool made out of a rounded stone cobble. Cobble tools are generally made of coarser material than flint. There are many different types of cobble tool, only two were found at Fife Ness: a hammerstone and a hollowed stone.

Core A flint knapping term: the core is the central block of material from which blades and flakes are removed. Cores are divided into various different types depending on the knapping process, see platform core and bipolar core.

Core Tablet A flint knapping term: core tablets are flakes removed across a worn or damaged platform in order to create a fresh platform and continue making flakes.

Core Trimming Flake A flint knapping term: core trimming flakes are removed from the platform edge of a core in order to get rid of irregular projections or blunted areas and maintain a suitable edge angle for the making of flakes.

Cortex The outer surface of a flint nodule or pebble. Fresh flint nodules have a white chalky cortex; flint pebbles that have come from a secondary source such as gravels tend to have an abraded and rolled cortex and most of the original chalk may have gone.

Cortication The matt discoloration, usually white or cream, that may cover the surface of a flint with time.

Crescent A microlith: a blade that has been blunted by microlithic retouch down one side. The retouched edge is convex in outline so that the piece is crescentic in plan with a triangular cross section.

Debris A by-product of knapping: that material which inevitably results from the knapping process but which was not necessarily the goal of that process. Some debris may be suitable for use, with or without modification.

Debitage A by-product of knapping: debris that was not apparently suitable for any further purpose. Material that would be discarded immediately upon the end of the knapping process. Debitage includes much very small material, often under 3mm in size.

Edge Retouched Piece A stone tool made from a flake or a blade which has had one (usually long) edge modified by the removal of small flakes (retouching).

Fine Point A microlith: a blade with modification by microlithic retouch along one or both sides to form a narrow point at one end.

Flake A stone tool: the finer pieces of stone that are removed from a core. Flakes tend to be more irregular than blades, but they have useful lengths of edge. Some may have been used unmodified, others were altered by retouching.

Flint knapping The process of making stone tools by breaking up a nodule or core. Good quality stone may be broken in a predictable fashion so that regular flakes and blades may be made.

Hammerstone Stone used to provide force. Hammerstones vary in size and hardness and this affects the blows that they will deliver. They were commonly used for flint knapping, but would have been useful in many other ways. Some were modified by pecking before use and many have wear patterns.

Lamellar Index The ratio of blades to flakes in an assemblage helps to determine what the flint knappers were primarily aiming to make. When a site specialised in blade making then the ratio of blades to flakes should exceed 20% (see Bordes & Gaussen 1970).

Late Glacial The period towards the end of the last Ice Age. A time of great change during which barren glacial conditions were interspersed with warmer conditions when plants and animals returned to Scotland.

Low Buried Shoreline A geomorphological term: the level at which the sea reached its lowest point in the post-glacial period. The height of this shoreline varies around Scotland so care should be taken when extrapolating from one area to another.

Mesolithic A subdivision of prehistory: the "middle stone age". In Scotland the mesolithic refers to the settlement after the end of the last Ice Age by people who lived by hunting, fishing and gathering plant materials. Mesolithic settlers were generally mobile.

Microburin A microlith: microburins are the snapped ends of blades from which the "useful" part has been removed for further working. They are characterised by a notch produced by microlithic retouch on one side of the blade, this was made in order to generate the snap and the notch is usually truncated by the snap. Microburins may well have been used, but they are generally recognised to be the waste from microlith making. They have been associated with particular types of microlith, but many microliths were made without using microburins.

Microlith A small stone artefact: microliths were made by blunting the edges of tiny blades. They were often made according to specific patterns: crescents, backed bladelets, fine points, obliquely blunted and so on. They were then hafted in groups to make knives, arrowheads and other tools. They are common on many mesolithic sites and do not seem to have been used in later periods.

Obliquely Blunted A microlith: a snapped blade with microlithic retouch across the snap which runs obliquely across the piece.

Pebble Nodule A nodule of flint that has come out of its original chalky matrix and been transported elsewhere before deposition in a new site, such as in river gravels. Pebble nodules are generally well worn and abraded on the outside.

Platform A flint knapping term: the platform is the surface of a core or nodule that is struck during knapping. While any suitable surface will do, successful knappers will usually make a flat platform surface and spend some time maintaining a particular angle at its edge. Specific knapping techniques use different types of platform, and one core may well be worked from more than one platform.

Platform Core A flint knapping term: platform cores are cores that incorporate a flat, platform, area, which is struck in order to remove flakes and blades from the side of the core. Platform cores were particularly used in blade making and they may well have several platforms.

Pressure Flaking A flint knapping term: the application of pressure using a hard tool such as an antler tine, to the edge of a flake or blade. In this way, small flakes are removed and so the piece may be shaped into a more complex tool.

Primary Technology The first part of the systematic process of stone tool production: nodules of raw material are prepared into cores and then used for the manufacture of flakes and blades. Many blades and flakes may be used as functional tools in their original form.

Radiocarbon dating A method of dating archaeological material by calculating the amount of radioactive carbon (carbon 14) left in organic objects. The calculation tends to work out dates that are too recent, but this can be corrected by calibration. AMS (Accelerator Mass Spectrometry) is a development of this dating but has greater sensitivity of measurement and requires much smaller samples.

Raised Beach A geomorphological term: a beach deposit laid down when the sea was at a higher level than it is today and subsequently left in a position above the current shoreline as the sea dropped to its present level.

Retouching A flint knapping term: the removal of small flakes from a blade or flake in order to shape it. Retouching may also be used to create specific edges, for example the blunt edges of scrapers. Retouching is generally carried out by pressure flaking.

Ring Crack A flint knapping term: a circular crack observed on a platform. Ring cracks are formed when the platform is struck, but no flake removed. They show where the blow fell, and usually indicate the site of an ancient mistake.

Scraper A flaked stone tool: scrapers have a steep, blunt working edge. They may have been used for processing hides, but they would also be useful in many other ways.

Secondary Technology The second part of the tool production process: selected blades and flakes are modified into specific tool types.


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Last updated: Wed Sep 30 1998