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Stone Tool Experts

By: Grahame Johnston - Updated: 20 Oct 2021 | comments*Discuss
Archaeometry Archaeology

Lithic means stone and in archaeological terms it is applied to any stone that has been modified in any way whatsoever by humans. Lithic analysis, therefore, is the study of those stones, usually stone tools, using scientific approaches. The branch within archaeology that undertakes the scientific analysis of archaeological materials is called archaeometry.

The work of the lithic analyst or stone tool expert involves measuring the physical properties of the tool and will include categorising the type of tool, listing its characteristics and noting wear and usage marks.

A Multi-Disciplined Science

The analyst must be thoroughly trained in stone tool production techniques to be able to draw valid conclusions about the lithic artefact.

Much information can be gathered from the study of lithic materials. For example, the sources of raw materials to make the tools, can tell how stone was procured and perhaps even the trading patterns of cultures without raw stone. The nature of the materials and the finished products help reveal their technological knowledge, skill base and common learning. Artefacts that can be dated often provide insights to more accurately amend the chronological record.

In order to conduct good research in the alcove of archaeometry, experts must be able to draw on the diversity of many of the earth sciences and allied disciplines.


Techniques for dating lithic tools vary from the simple observation of the known existence of a civilisation at the artefact's discovery level, through to sophisticated thermo luminescence methods. Radiocarbon dating is widely applied to tools with organic attachments such as wooden handles or rope bindings but C14 methods are not reliable when items have been water saturated.

Location and Procurement

Studies to reveal the source of raw stone materials have been at the head of modern archaeological research. Its importance lies in discovering the extent to which stone tooled people travelled to appropriate their basic implement needs. This may, in turn, permit the re-discovery of new sources of raw materials for use today. Methods used to compare artefacts with geological locations include using x-rays, scanning electron microscopes, thin section sampling and electron analysis.

Wear and Usage

Most stone tools display recognisable evidence of wear and use. This should not be confused with the intentional chipping or breaking applied to the stone in order to make it a tool. For example, a flint knife will have been chipped deliberately along its length to form a cutting edge, but it may also show signs of fine polishing from its continued use. This scrutiny is called microwear analysis. Its potential for identifying past human subsistence and handcraft activity is a valuable window into earlier periods. By elucidation and measuring the occurrence of microwear polish and identifying polishes on different raw materials, the tool expert is helped to create a working picture of the daily lives of former cultures.

Heat Treated Stone

Lithic researchers are always interested in whether stone tools were tempered or shaped purposely by fire. High temperatures can change the structures within stone. Lithic analysis laboratories apply various techniques such as magnetic susceptibility and thermo-remanent magnetism to reveal a rock's history.

Thermo-remanent magnetism is a measurement system that deals with the remanent magnetism in the magnetic materials found in stone that has been heated to very high temperatures such as in a brick kiln. High heat changes the stone to have a magnetic field directionally more like that of the earth. Upon cooling the magnetic field will become locked. This process is only useful on objects that have not been moved, such as fire hearths or brick ovens.

More precise identification of burning or deliberate thermal treatment of lithic artefacts can be obtained by thermo-luminescence. The primary purpose of this technique is to date the heating incident.

Getting to Know the Old Tool Maker

The archaeometrist has a varied array of techniques suitable for solving the problems of analysing raw stone materials and artefacts. Understanding the interplay between raw material procurement, heat treatment methods and artefact production and use can enhance our understanding of the skills of the forgotten stone worker.

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Who can i send photos off a very unusual stone with markings on thanks mark
Barny - 20-Oct-21 @ 1:46 PM
Hello, I found what looks like a hatchet type tool slightly in the ground near an old Walnut Grove. Is there a way I can send picture or show it?
Chad - 26-Oct-20 @ 4:31 AM
Hello, I come across a stone on a beech on the NE coat of Scotland, Caithness (beside a castle - I forget the name but can look it up if you need). The stone is long and fits into my hand perfectly and has lots of scores across it that look like they are man made. May I send a picture across to show you as I am interested in what it may be. Thanks Gill
Gill - 18-Sep-20 @ 11:01 AM
I have a number of pieces I believe to be stone tools , gathered during years that I lived in Congo, in the 1970’s. Is there a way to have them identified?
Sukadi - 28-Jun-20 @ 2:36 AM
It has been my experience that the experts have what I call “textbook blindness”!They refuse to see or acknowledge the art literally carved in stone!Nor do they acknowledge or see anything that isn’t in the timeline of the textbooks! For example tools identical to anything found in France or anywhere else! They are not supposed to be here therefore they do not exist except for in the imagination of folks without PhDs that find them! And we find the proof by the 1000’s!I believe that the shear number of finds like this should be enough to prove our point if only the PhDs didn’t have textbook blindness! They could see what we see Just my observation and experiences in my quest to learn about the things I find here in middle Georgia! Thx Judy
Judy - 20-Jan-20 @ 1:21 PM
In an non-excavated site at Bandelier National Monument I found (and left) a worked stone with the following characteristics: Made from fine grained basalt. Approximately 8 inches long. One end broken. One end very smooth and very flat. Looking at the finished smooth end, it had a triangular shape. The triangle had two short sides, about 2 inches long each. The third side of the triangle was about 3.5 inches. All surfaces, except for the broken end, were very flat, very smooth, and not shiny. There were no signs of wear or usage on the item. The shape of the item would make it difficult to use as a hammer or mano. Do you have any idea of what this item is and what it was used for? Thanks.
Rog - 7-Dec-19 @ 12:20 AM
I have found a stone, it's triangular shape, but Something ring inside the stone.
Hitesh - 26-Oct-19 @ 3:32 PM
I have been collecting Indian artifacts and would like to know how I can have them certified so I can sell them
Jr - 20-Oct-19 @ 7:05 PM
I have seen a price guide book , the books origin was the 2006 Paragould, Arkansas , 1st annual, artifacts show . This book had ancient artifacts in it that were anywhere from 60 thousand to 1 million years old , I can't remember exactly the age but I know they were very old . They were at least 60 thousand I know for sure and they came from the Aral Sea . I have found the whole book of artifacts here in central Arkansas . And none of the archeologists here recognize Any of these artifacts . They tell me there natural rocks . They don't go through the trouble of mAkin a price guide book , and me find the exact same artifacts in holes in the woods . And they not be real. They are tellin me just because they are not made of flint there not artifacts, well I tried to explain all these artifacts in this book were not made of flint , they were ancient exotic speers and all the small spears and effigies in this book went from 800 dollars up to 100,000 thousand dollars . Then the last section of this book were two foot effigies mostly of birds . The face of the rock was worked to look like feathers . And they all had a triangular head . They talked about the pecked eye . These were pecked artifacts . All in effigy form . And I dare anyone to come prove me wrong . I know these are the artifacts I seen in that book and will prove these are the first inhabitants of the North American continent . All the archeologists I've spoken with here in ARkakseS were all at the artifacts show the book came from . All I can say is they let one get by em . I've been looking fir this book for 10 years now . I'm currently untombing the chief , he is intombed in a tomb made of magnetic hemitite . Which is lined up with the winter solstice facing due east . I know I'm right I'm on the verge of proving it but I would love for an expert to come look at my evidence cause I'm not into digging up dead people . It took me 4 years to get the balks up to do it . I've been workin on it past 5 months and still worried about my well being . Doin it . But nothin is stopping me now I might end up dead but maybe someone will here my cries and come to my rescue . Piece
Thicketdweller - 18-Sep-19 @ 7:47 PM
I would like to see your response to Babs comment please
Kritter - 19-Aug-19 @ 10:57 PM
Hi, I live fairly close to known Indian mounds in the Midwest. they have artifacts that date back to 800bc. They have also found the skeleton of a wooly mamouth in late 1800’s early 1900’s that’s just a city block away from my house. We’re out in ge middle of no where. My husband and I have found hundreds if not thousands of stone tools ranging from very large to micro. But they look much older then then Mississippian tools they have on display. There are literally tools everywhere I don’t even think we have rocks in our creeks they look like they’ve all been worked to some degree. We have found most in the clay layers that have been exposed by all the flooding an dwash outs this year. Where can I take some to get them dated or learn more about them? Who do I call? And does it cost anything? The inside of my house is starting to look like a dry bed creek, rocks everywhere!! Lol my children say I need to go to AHA-arrow head anonymous! Lol
Babs36 - 24-Jul-19 @ 6:59 AM
I, like so many others seek authentication for the many suspected anient stone tool/weaponsPortable Rock Art.
Dinky - 22-Jul-19 @ 3:09 AM
Sir i have alot of stone in my village every stone has good symbols.i want your help about that and also i have pic of the antimaps on rocks
Majid - 20-May-19 @ 10:12 PM
https://photos.app.goo.gl/6GZBo4BAzwSwrdEK9 Hopefully this allows a picture to be seen. Sorry for the inconvenience
JesseM - 5-May-19 @ 8:33 PM
Hey I have what I believe is a native American tool however I would like to here others opinions and any info on the stone used would be amazing. Thanks to all in advance.
JesseM - 5-May-19 @ 7:21 PM
Hello I'm wondering if you could help, found these stone items in same area over course of a few months,in the research I've done they look stone age,I cant find anywhere to attach photos so you can see, but your welcome to email me and I can send them,your help would be greatly appreciated
Mike - 1-May-19 @ 8:13 PM
My parents have a stone object 14 cm long, 12 cm wide and flat at one end for approx 2 cm, then narrowing to 8 cm wide and rounded off at other end and approx 1 cm thick. It has a polished surface. All edges are tapered, but smooth/blunt not sharp. What is it? What could it be? I have photo, but don’t know how to add it!
dcroome - 22-Apr-19 @ 10:37 AM
Hello I’ve found a very unusual stone and am convinced it’s something very old possibly a tool. How or who can I show it to to find out more??
Wabblit - 23-Mar-19 @ 12:07 PM
Is there any where available to take an item (stone tool) to be properly authenticated? Thank you
ArchaeologicallyChal - 16-Jan-19 @ 2:34 PM
I found a peice of flint that clearly looks as it was worked but it has a mark on it this mark is a small circle made with what. Looks like 4 or 5 tiny arrows that face inward to the center of the circle
Muskratt - 6-Jan-19 @ 10:59 AM
Hi I have found a piece of flint with a sharp edge and smooth grooves that fit two fingers and a thumb. I live in an area where other flint Neolithic tools have been found. I would be interested to hear whether it could be a tool.
George - 26-Mar-18 @ 9:16 PM
I grew up in SE Kent running around the fields as a kid. Just by chance found a top end biface hand axe in mint condition. This got me hooked on stone tools. Over 30 ploughing seasons I worked out a pattern of where tools were turning up. Also got to know a geologist on the water board. He knew from records where water courses, lakes and rivers once were. I used this information to find the most likely spots and bingo it worked. A couple of good geologists confirmed geofacts turn up commonly all over the fields. Genuine tools are usually isolated finds or concentrated in certain pockets. You can look over miles round here and not even find a flint what resembles a tool. But there are certain pockets we all find them. This rules out geofacts as we have looked in fields full of flints and found nothing.
Steve - 26-Nov-17 @ 4:44 PM
@stu. This is difficult to envisage without a picture. You'd be better taking it to a museum or something.
No picture - 20-Sep-17 @ 2:29 PM
I found a rock in my backyard in il. Its about 12 inches long and 6 inch across, and about 1 inch thick, it is flat and has round edges on three sides and a sharp point on one side and has a lot of grove marks on flat side, rock also has a lot of silver chips in rockwhat is this stu
stu - 20-Sep-17 @ 1:23 PM
I have awesome pics organized on Shutterfly into albums...would you take a look?Hand axes, choppers/cleavers, etchers, drills...
Drew - 15-Sep-17 @ 11:50 AM
I have found dozens of rocks over the years in northern New Jersey (US) at the Raritan River Valley area where all of the major glaciations of the Ice Ages terminated that I think resemble artifacts.I have pictures on Shutterfly organized into albums.Is this a site where I can pursue finding out anything about my rocks which may be artifacts?Does anybody share pictures here?Cheers, Drew
Drew - 15-Sep-17 @ 11:47 AM
Hi my son found what looks like a piece of flint with a hole through the left hand side. It was found in a river in Ferndale South Wales.
Ceejay - 3-Jul-17 @ 9:05 AM
I have a stone with a perfectly round hole in the top and one flat side at the bottom.I have pictures available.I have not found anyone who can tell me what it us or how old.Hoping someone knows what it is.Thank you.
None - 26-May-17 @ 3:53 PM
I found a rock artefact about 50 years ago on the Island of Newfoundland Canada. It has been chiseled out of rock, it looks a old fashioned iron. It has a well worn bottom and I thinks it was used for crushing in food preparation or hide activity. The ProvincialArchaeologist believes it's a natural occurring rock formation. I am 100% convinced she is wrong. I have pictures which clearly shows it is human made. Can you help?
Ken - 18-May-17 @ 2:25 PM
Does anyone out there have any idea of who might be the premier Archeometrist in the Pacific Northwest. I have recently found some artifacts (confirmed by the Burke in Seattle) and was told they are tools and flakes. I agree there are tools and flakes among them but what I see as arrow and spear points they do not. I am almost certainly convinced that they are in fact an as yet to be documented point technology and most certainly older than any recognized in this particular cut of the world. Any help would be greatly appreciated!
Ry1 - 8-Apr-17 @ 5:43 PM
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