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Stone Tool Experts

By: Grahame Johnston - Updated: 24 Jul 2019 | 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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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
Hello. Today whilst I was out in the fields waking my dog I found a stone that I kept because I thought it looked unusual. At first I thought I was some kind of fossil as the markings on it look like some kind of flower/ starfish almost. However, when I took it home to show my father, he believes that someone has in fact carved the markings onto the stone and even parts of the outer stone. Is there anyone I can send photos to have a look at to find out more information? Thanks!
Alice - 24-Mar-17 @ 9:33 PM
Hi there not sure if anyone can help me but today I found a stone in a load of pea shingle that was round and looked like a kind of cog I'm totally mythed at what it could be. Someone please help me identify what it is ! I can email photos if you can give me an email address . Many thanks
Guy - 23-Feb-17 @ 7:43 PM
Zen - Your Question:
Hi thereYour site is a great resource! Thanks for creating. I am a 35 year old man from County Antrim in N. Ireland. A while back, while walking along the shore I found a piece of flint that I thought looked "worked". I found this really fascinating and have been bitten by "the bug". I always keep an eye out when I am there with my Son. I know it is likely that none of my finds so far are in fact worked, but thought someone might be good enough to have a look at some pictures for me? Any feedback or advice appreciated!Regards, Jonathan

Our Response:
We can't do this for your Jonathan sorry but it's definitely worth taking them along to a local museum etc
ArchaeologyExpert - 9-Jan-17 @ 11:57 AM
Hi there Your site is a great resource! Thanks for creating.I am a 35 year old man from County Antrim in N. Ireland. A while back, while walking along the shore I found a piece of flint that I thought looked "worked". I found this really fascinating and have been bitten by "the bug". I always keep an eye out when I am there with my Son. I know it is likely that none of my finds so far arein fact worked, but thought someone might be good enough to have a look at some pictures for me? Any feedback or advice appreciated! Regards, Jonathan
Zen - 7-Jan-17 @ 10:37 AM
Almost a year later and I'm still finding artifacts on the property I purchased. This entire property was a cove or coral reef that was covered by volcanic ash. The sea floor fossils are still upright in the ground and match one specific place I keep circling back to while researching and that is the Jurassic coast. Some of the stone tools have fossilized coral over the percussion markings which means they were made before whatever event covered this sea floor. There's also reptile carvings, animals carvings, and Neanderthal tools all matching Chauvet Cave and other areas found in France. Everything that I've found here and by everything, I'm talking hundreds of artifacts, all point to this part of the world.And I'm in Ohio... I guess no one is willing accept this. The Baltic amber I have found must be coincidence as well as the dinosaur tracks, oviraptor egg and fossil footprints.
Xpertneeded - 17-Dec-16 @ 5:18 AM
I recently found a flint artifact in the Dordogne area of France that I've been told is a hand ax, either Paleolithic or Neolithic. Can you direct me to someone who is knowledgeable in that area so that they might give me more information about my find?
SarahP - 2-Sep-16 @ 7:58 PM
Hello to whomever reads this and thank you for reading - I have been looking at the history of my local area and knew the road the runs along my house was at least 500 years old, however I also knew a quarry used to be located off of this road, so see a lot of Flint and other rocks (Chalk is mined locally). Anyway I was out walking and noticed (within a trench created by a vehicle) some Flint that may have been worked/knapped.. At this point I knew nothing about technique and the 'bulb of percussion' or 'shockwave effect', however have since found something I believe to have been worked as it has a aerated edge. I have since returned to the site and noticed a few stones laying quite close to the top of the soil, 1 of which has an ammonite in (I believe it's sandstone). I have also, very delicately and with only use of a paint brush, found a no. Of other 'things' (still yet to be researched) however was wondering who I should contact as this could be a site of significant history (however as a non aerchiological laymen) I'm not sure who, can you help? I can send photos of whatever you need. Appreciate your help greatly Kindest regards TimHerts
TimHerts - 25-Aug-16 @ 1:50 PM
I found stone tools on my property. More than I can research at once and need an expert. These aren't the typical flint made, they match acheulean and mousterian. Really cool stuff
Xpertneeded - 11-Apr-16 @ 7:41 PM
A research group of Stoney Brook Univ found - what they call - the oldest stone tools at Lomekwi 3 site. The reported dating techniques (Nature 21 may 2015) date the site. How can they possibly know the tools are produced in the same period? (being a philosopher I am ignorant in this matter) Thanks for any clarification.
Boris - 31-May-15 @ 9:01 AM
Hi, I've recently been searching for artifacts in a field near Cayuga lake, NY.I found a broken knife blade / spear point and what I believe to be a couple different "smoothing" tools. One is a smaller rock that has a groove very much shaped for an arrow worn into it and then 2 "chipped" spots with 2 straight lines that are grooved that looks like they were sharpening grooves, They both look like 2 in 1 tools and would like some help identifying them. Thank you!
Kletus - 25-Apr-15 @ 10:27 PM
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