Dealing with Debitage (by Erika Loveland)

Over the last couple of months, I have been working on measuring and recording attributes of the Garden Creek’s off-mound assemblage of lithic debitage — small pieces of chipped stone that result from flint knapping. Analyzing this material can help answer several important research questions:

  • What sort of raw material was used for stone tool production?
  • Is the material locally available or did it have to be procured outside the Garden Creek vicinity? If so, where did it come from?
  • What can the lithic assemblage tell us about the sorts of activities that were occurring at Garden Creek: for instance, flint knapping, stone tool exchange, meat butchering, or producing some other craft using lithic tools (e.g. cut mica)?

Typical lithic assemblage from a 1x1m excavation square. Mostly chert with some crystal quartz raw material, and, with the exception of the tool fragment at the upper left, all flakes with no macroscopic use wear. Thanks to Ashley Schubert for the photo.

So far, the main raw materials identified in the debitage assemblage are several varieties of chert or flint and perfectly clear crystal quartz. There is no major chert outcrop in Garden Creek’s immediate surroundings, so we need to think about the sorts of procurement and transportation strategies that could have gotten them to the site. The crystal quartz may be more locally available, but based on our discussions with local archaeologists, it is occurring at a higher frequency at Garden Creek than at other sites in the region — another pattern that demands explanation.

Additionally, the very small size of most of the pieces of debitage from Garden Creek indicate that, at least in the areas we excavated, tools were undergoing in a later stage of production. In other words, these tiny flakes were probably produced in the late stages of shaping knives, scrapers, and projectile points or in the course of re-sharpening them.

At this rate, I will finish analyzing the debitage recovered during the 2011 season this semester. Then I can look at how the patterns described above (or others) map out in different areas of the site, and determine if certain areas were being used for certain activities. I  hope to be able to present some of my results at the Southeastern Archaeological Conference next fall.

Erika, zeroing in on a flake for analysis.


About Alice Wright

Alice is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Anthropology at Appalachian State University. She tweets about archaeology, Appalachia, and cats @alicepwright.
This entry was posted in Lab Work, Lithics, Students and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Dealing with Debitage (by Erika Loveland)

  1. art ledbetter says:

    really fascinating…thanks

  2. Bennie says:

    Is the upper left tool a biface?

    Great going.

    I could not open the drawing in the previous post. Could you resend, please.

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