Session: #238

Theme & Session Format

Interpreting the archaeological record: artefacts, humans and landscapes
Session format:
Regular session

Title & Content

Functional Analyses of Hunter-gatherer Lithic Tool Assemblages [PaM]
Lithic artefacts are a principal source of information for reconstructing the cultural traditions, movement, behaviours and diets of Palaeolithic and Mesolithic people. While it is generally assumed that these artefacts were designed and used to carry out a wide range of specific tasks, in most cases we know little about the precise past functions of individual artefacts or artefact types.
Our current poor understanding of the function of many tool types means that the epistemological challenge laid down decades ago by the influential calls for the development of middle-range theory (Binford 1962) remains largely unanswered. It also poses stumbling blocks for archaeological practice more widely, as a lack of understanding of artefact function stymies attempts to create robust artefact typologies, with consequent problems for the construction of cultural taxonomies.
Nevertheless, piecemeal progress continues to be made in understanding archaeological artefact functions. New research methodologies and studies have generated unexpected results that have broadened our understanding of prehistoric subsistence strategies, technological habits and lithic material use.
The aim of this session is to review current understandings and outstanding questions concerning archaeological and interdisciplinary approaches to identifying lithic tool use by past hunter-gatherer societies, including use-wear quantification and residue characterisation, experimental approaches and ethnoarchaeological studies. We invite papers focusing on methodological and interpretive questions and innovations, ideally supplemented with case studies expressing an engagement with questions of broad archaeological significance. We also welcome papers based on work by, collaborations with and ethnographies of contemporary and historical hunter-gatherer communities and their members. We intend the eventual publication of papers from this session as a special journal issue or collection.
functional analysis, residue analysis, use-wear, experimental archaeology, ethnoarchaeology, traceology
Session associated with MERC:
Session associated with CIfA:
Session associated with SAfA:
Session associated with CAA:
Session associated with DGUF:
Session associated with other:
Palaeolithic and Mesolithic Community


Main organiser:
Natasha Reynolds (France) 1
Wei Chu (Germany) 2
Jo√£o Marreiros (Germany) 3
1. UMR 5199 PACEA, Université de Bordeaux
2. University of Cologne
3. RGZM Archaeological Research Institute