Basic flake tool making techniques

Basic flake tool making techniques

Flake tool tradition made its appearance at the end of the Lower Palaeolithic and flourished since then through Middle Palaeolithic times. A number of flaking technologies were used to make blanks and to shape a core into a finished tool. Here a chart is given which shows some basic flake-tool making techniques.

However beside these a number of other techniques like crested blade technology and Kombewa technology were also present at that time. Brief description of these basic technologies are given below:

Clactonian Technique

It originally involves use of anvil technique to produce large flake tools. From the name of the type site Clacton-on-sea, this technology is known as Clactonian method. The flakes produced by this technique present large natural striking platform with very pronounced interior angle (greater than 105 degrees), which is produced due to the intersection of the axis going through the natural striking platform with the axis going though the main flake surface, and a diffuse bulb of percussion. The lack of any surface preparation makes these flakes highly variable in structure and thickness.

Levalloisian Technique

This is a prepared-core technology named after a place called Levallois-Perret, a suburb of Paris where flakes and cores of this kind were first recovered and defined. Levallois technology is most characteristic of Middle Paleolithic industries but begins to appear before 200Ka, in some cases in association with Early Paleolithic industries.

Levallois cores were artificially prepared for striking out better flakes to make a better kind of tool. Centrally directed removals were generally used to create a square, ovoid, or other regularly shaped block of stone, which was more or less flat on the upper surface and markedly convex on the lower surface (planoconvex).

The sides of the block were also convex (lateral convexities). A striking platform, at right angle to the flat upper surface was prepared at one end of the core. The Levallois flake was then removed from the upper surface by bringing the striking platform down sharply at an angle on an anvil. The large flake that often resulted was extremely thin in size, conformed closely to the outline of the prepared core, and retained the pattern of centrally directed removals on its upper surface, as well as the facets of the striking platform. Although not all of these features characterise every Levallois flake or core, the distinctive thinness of Levallois flakes, together with their regular shape, are suggestive of the use of the technology in a particular assemblage. Definitive determination of Levallois technology,
however, can be made only by reconstructing the entire knapping process through refitting. It is worth mentioning that the angle produced by the intersection of the axis passing through the prepared striking platform with the axis that passes through the main flake surface is always a right angle.

Mousterian Technique

The Mousterian or disc core technology is characterised by centripetal flaking around the entire core margin on one or both surfaces. Although it is not different to Levallois in both the technique and form of removed flakes, it lacks clear support that the exterior morphology of the core was specially prepared to achieve a flake of a particular form. Two characteristic products of this technology are the pseudo Levallois point and the disc core itself. The later is generally circular in form with centripetal flake scars and typically has a flaking surface that is quite high or even pointed at the mid point.

Retouching and Blunting

The term retouching involves removal of flakes from a piece of stone. Sometimes the term primary retouch refers to the initial, roughing-out stages of stone reduction, while secondary retouch designates the more refined reduction of stone material, as in the case of bifacial thinning or the shaping of flake tools.

Some archaeologists restrict the term to refer to the formation of flake tools. Where as blunting is a form of retouching which is done in such a way that a sharp edge of a flake turns into a blunt edge. Most developed form of retouching and blunting were actually developed during the greater part of Stone Age especially during Upper Paleolithic and Mesolithic to make various type of points and microliths.