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Over time and space within different ecological environment one can witness
the biological and cultural evolution of early man. The following aspects are
involved in this statement and they are studied in Archaeological Anthropology.
Biology Culture Environment Time Space Out of these ‘space’ is an important aspect for studying the distribution of man in different ecological setup in relation to surrounding environment. Space has been utilised for settlement, economic resources, and cultural activities.
Archaeologists study prehistoric subsistence pattern on the basis of artifacts with
various technologies that people developed to adapt to their environment. Cultural
ecology is a theoretical framework for studying the interrelationship between
people and their environment. Environmental approach includes both natural
and social environment. In the study of prehistoric settlement pattern, technology
and subsistence have leading role.
Today settlements usually mean cities, town and villages. However, these types
of settlement pattern are absent in Prehistoric period. First man was mobile rather
than sedentary. He created temporary camps and sites for processing raw materials
and in search of food. Cave and rock shelter were often used for occupation.
In outlining an archaeological site, different types of sites as the spatial units are
important in the context of the present study unit. One can understand the
importance of studying archaeological sites, their distribution and differentiation
in terms of time and space in cultural frame of archaeology.
1.2 ARCHAEOLOGICAL SITE: DEFINITION AND CLASSIFICATION
A ‘Site’ or precisely an archaeological site is any kind of place, large or small,
where there are traces of human occupation or his activity found available.
Archaeological sites consist essentially of activity areas that comprise material
cultural objects like tools and remains of food in the form of rubbish dump. Sites
do not remain intact rather they change in course of time either through repeated
occupation of man and due to impact of various natural agencies. They however
remain intact on many occasion after the site is discarded and abandonment.
Sites are discovered in course of exploration upon the occurrence of stone artifact.
Their sizes range in size from a spot, larger Space to large city Innumerable sites developed owing to the migratory habit of early man, and many of them are not yet discovered. Smaller and bigger sites reveal the duration of time or length of occupational time. For example Mesopotamian occupation mounds were re-occupied again and again for hundreds and thousands of years and its remains are discovered from a number of stratified layers. In
contrast the occupation site may contain scatters of potsherds or stone tools or
occupation layer buried under top soil. Archaeological sites may consist of an
association of assemblages of artifacts or series of assemblages stratified one
A person could hardly comprehend prehistory if he regarded each of the site as
an unique one; archaeologists therefore customarily group sites into convenient
categories. A reader working for the purpose of a general work on archaeology
will see reference in a book on Prehistory or Archaeology with different
nomenclature like Paleolithic sites, early Bronze Age sites and Iron Age; however
there will be sites like Cave Site, Sites on the River Valleys, Sites on the edges of
Lakes, lagoon and sea or in desert environment. Here the first category of sites
speaks about a cultural orientation and the later are described on their spatial
1.2.1 Classifying Sites
Archaeological sites can be classified in the following ways:
126.96.36.199 By Artifact Content
The association, assemblages, and sub assemblages of artifacts in the sites are
used to label it as Stone Age, Chalcolithic or Iron Age and so on. Thus the
particular site can be labeled according to its specific artifacts content: stone
tools, milling stones, pottery and some metal artifacts. On the other hand the sub
assemblages recovered from the site reflect individual human behaviour, sites
can be classified by the characteristic pattern of the artifacts found in them such
as burial sites, kill or butchering sites, quarry site and habitation site.
188.8.131.52 By Geographic/Geological Location
Many human settlements are well defined types associated to various geographic
locations, and these sites can be referred as open sites, lakeside sites, cave sites,
valley sites, foothill sites, and so on.
The above mentioned sites could be expanded, but none of them can singly
account for all the possible kinds of sites. The study of all kinds of sites is relevant
to a particular objective pertaining to any research to give a holistic picture of
the social system operative in prehistory. Therefore it is meaningless to attribute
that some kinds of sites are of more value than others. It is fairer to attribute that
some kinds of sites yield a greater range of information than do the others, and
that consequently, these are the sites most often studied.
1.2.2 Kind of Sites
A site is a place where traces of ancient occupation and activity are available.
The presence of artifacts is the clue to a site. The number and variety of prehistoric
sites are limited only by the activities of prehistoric men who lived and left their
traces on the Earth. Each site is not unique and therefore archaeologists classify
Archaeological Units sites into categories. These sites have been classified by artifacts type such as stone tools. The activity is represented by the remains, such as, kill site, camp
site, and quarry site. Finally the site is referred to the geo-archaeological context,
such as, stratified, non stratified or surface finds.
184.108.40.206 Living or Habitation Site
Habitation sites are the most important sites because people have lived and carried
out a multitude of activities at the place. The most commonly excavated sites are
the places where people lived and these sites were a focal point of prehistoric
activities. All archaeological sites imply habitation though it may have been for
relatively short time period. A habitation site is one around which a group of
people centered their daily activities. The artifacts in living sites reflect domestic
activities such as food production. Habitation sites that were occupied the year
round frequently have the remains of houses, but dwellings may be caves or
rock shelters or even open area in which no trace of a permanent shelter remains.
Seasonally occupied sites generally have fewer traces of architecture. Prehistoric
men found shelter in various sorts of constructions ranging from temporary
windbreaks, lean-tos to semi sub- terranean house made of logs and earth that
could be lived in year after year, mud brick or rough masonry houses etc. In
areas where shelters were not needed, habitation sites may be seen with the
remains of fire and scatter of refuse and artifacts. In prehistoric sites an arc shaped
pile of stones, which perhaps served as the floor or foundation of a windbreak,
has been discovered in Olduvai Gorge, Tanzania, by L.S. B Leakey.
The prehistoric caves are hollow carved in the rocks by natural agencies such as
wind and ground water. They are generally found in the lime stone formation.
Evidence of cave shelter has been found in Kurnool district of Andhra Pradesh.
A rock shelter differs from a cave in having an overhanging rocks and almost
open sides. Hundreds of rock shelters have been found from vindhyan sand stone
area of Madhypradesh.
The open camp sites or open air sites are mainly found in the open or near the
bank of the lakes, streams and ponds. It is a living site because people lived or
camped for a certain time period. The site Langhnaj is a good example of a camp
on a dune near a Lake and Bagor is the example of open camp beside River site.
Sites that are ordinarily close to settlements are agricultural fields and terrace,
irrigation canals, roads, bridges, aqueducts, and cemeteries. Occasionally
habitation sites served the dual purpose of dwelling and defense, although
defensive structures are relatively rare in prehistoric times.
220.127.116.11 Trading Centres
A number of trading sites has been reported form a few places, though it is
difficult to recognise them with certainty. Sites centrally situated between the
Maya and Aztec areas have been identified as ports of trade, though of course
they were habitation sites as well. The site Lothal in Indus area is also of the
same type. Archeologists have found a site on non arable land that was favorably
placed for the salt and obsidian trade in Turkey. Pathways across open ground or
roads such as the Roman roads of Britain and Inca highways are distinguished
features related to trade. Teotihuacan near Mexico City is the great prehistoric
metropolis which covers about 20 square kilometers with a population estimated Space
as high as 125,000 persons. There are certain groups of buildings where foreign
pottery is abundant and the archaeologists think that merchants from the Gulf
Coast, Yucatan, and Oaxaca may have lived in the area.
18.104.22.168 Quarry Sites
In archaeological terms, a quarry or mine site is where there were evidences of
material, such as, stone or metal ore were mined for use as building material or
for tool manufacture. Quarries are interesting to archaeologists, because
the sources of raw materials found on archaeological sites help to know trade
networks of prehistoric and protohistoric people. Evidence at a quarry might
also show available technology in the form of tools left behind and cut marks in
the walls of the excavation pits.
Sites in which a great variety of minerals were mined are common throughout
the world although only a few of them were excavated. The presence of special
tools needed for mining copper, obsidian and other metals are important for
identifying quarry sites. Mining for metal ores also indicate a sites. Archaeologists
have uncovered the bones, and sometimes the bodies, of miners who were crushed
by falling rocks. Quarry sites may be workshop areas where ores were smelted,
flints were chipped, or soapstone was worked into bowls. Analysis of raw material
form quarry sites help to get to know which of the particular product was mined.
A study of the distribution of finished stone artifacts may tell the archaeologist a
great deal about ancient trade relations in particular stones. For example
Petrological analysis of British stone axes of the Neolithic and Bronze Ages and
of the determination by trace element studies of obsidian and copper in the Near
East indicate the areas from where those were imported.
Archaeological Units In 1990, a team of archaeologists of Banaras Hindu University supervised by P.C. Pant and Vidula Jayswal noticed evidence of ancient stone quarries, including
many large cylindrical blocks in the nearby Chunar hills. Over 450 ancient quarry
sites were identified in an area of 15 sq. km. This was done on the basis of marks
of extraction of stone blocks, chiseling debris, cylindrical blocks and count marks
of the number of finished blocks.
22.214.171.124 Kill Sites
Kill sites are places where prehistoric people killed games and camped around
while butchering the meat. They are relatively common on the Great Plains. It is
common in the United States to found kill sites, places where one or more animals
were killed by hunters, some of whom may have had no permanent dwellings.
At kill sites archaeologists find the bones of the animals, projectile points used
for killing them, and the tools for butchering. In some cases where the bone
materials has been well preserved the pattern of butchering the animals can be
reconstructed. At Olduvai one such site is found.
Outside the Americas it is less common to find kill sites, though certain remains
from the Acheulian and later periods, situated at the edges of rivers and lakes
must have been combination of kill and habitation sites. Those hunters usually
have a home base from which they wander in pursuit of game and often bring
back only the edible portion of butchered animals. The amount of bone and
stone tools in these sites suggests seasonal or perhaps permanent year round
camps. Archaeologist usually calls these sites “living floors”. Frequently a
fireplace is found in which the meat was cooked.
126.96.36.199 Factory Sites
Factory site is a site where men manufacture tools. These sites are generally
located near the sources of raw material. Numerous factory sites have been
discovered in India. Example of Lower Palaeolithic factory sites is Chirki on the
valley of the river Pravara, Gangapur on the river Godavari, Chitor in Rajasthan.
Several factory sites were also used by man as camp sites or living sites. The raw
materials, finished and unfinished tools, debitage are the indicator of factory
188.8.131.52 Ceremonial Sites
Ceremonial site may or may not be integral to a living site. Mayan ceremonial
sites, such as Tikal were surrounded by habitation areas. Ceremonial sites include
the imposing megalithic construction at Stonehenge. Ceremonial sites are found
in much older caves in France and Spain where remarkable paintings, carvings,
and reliefs are found. Ordinarily, however, there are no dwellings other than
those of political or religious officials and their retainers within the area of a
ceremonial site. For example, La Venta, a large Meso American ceremonial
center, was erected some distance away from the area where general population
184.108.40.206 Burial Sites
Burial sites are mostly those sites where the dead bodies are ceremonially buried.
Burial sites include both cemeteries and isolated tombs. People have been burying
their dead since at least 100,000 years ago and have often taken enormous pains
to prepare them for the afterlife. The most famous burial sites of all are the
pyramids of Giza in Egypt. Archaeologist concentrates their efforts on cemeteries
because they often contain useful information about social practices. Burial sites
range from isolated burials in shallow holes to elaborate masonry construction,
earth mounds, and megalithic monuments. At the classic Maya site of Palenque
in the state of Chiapas, Mexico, the pyramid and temple of the inscriptions were
built over a great burial chamber, and subsequently several other examples of
tombs in the pyramids have been found. Many burials are associated with special
grave furniture, jewelry and ornaments of rank.
Burials may also be found in the garbage dumps of large villages; they may be
under the floors of house; or they may occur singly, away from habitation sites.
At times certain cemeteries, or sections of a cemetery, may have been reserved
for persons of one sex or age or social rank. Usually, however, cemeteries contain
a sample of the whole population that died in the period of the cemetery’s use.
Examples of special cemeteries are those for children in Pennsylvania; separate
cemeteries for men in the Desert field in upper Austria, where special area were
reserved for children, for victims of epidemics, and for persons belonging to “an
elevated social group”. Disposal of human bodies may also involve the discard
of artifacts with the body. These grave goods are extremely valuable to
archaeologists for reconstruction of prehistoric ways of life and death.
1.2.3 Primary and Secondary Sites
The site may be either primary, if people have deposited its own remains there or
secondary, if the remains have been re deposited by another people or by natural
agency. Any other human disturbance of the ground might result in elements of
the site being moved around and re deposited. For example a primary deposit on
a river terrace has been bulldozed into another part of the terrace; the place of re
deposition is a secondary site.
1.2.4 Importance of Primary Sites
A primary site may either be disturbed or none disturbed. The living sites are
mainly primary sites. If at a site the evidence of cultural material left behind by
man is found in an undisturbed or original deposition or in –situ position it is
primary site. The material remains recovered from these sites provide valuable
information about the life of the people who lived there as well as about their
surroundings. The present trend of India is more towards exploring and excavating
the primary or the living sites. The contents of primary site comprise both natural
and human deposits. The natural deposits consist of materials laid down by water,
wind or other geological agencies. The human deposits cover the animal
deposition and material culture
220.127.116.11 Abandonment of a Site
At some stage in the life of an activity area a settlement may be abandoned. All
features of site, such as pits, buildings, roads would be abandoned but also a
range of artifacts. Once a site has been abandoned other communities in the area
may see it as useful local resources of firewood or building materials. The site
could be leveled further for new buildings and cut away to make terraces for
new houses or agriculture.
1.3 FORMATION OF SITE
Two questions arise, “How a site is made?” and “How do you know where to
look for sites?” These are important for the Archaeologist. In principle, the answer
to both questions is easy although a little explanation and illustration are required.
Sites are the result of human activity. It is not always very easy to recognise the
prehistoric sites though understanding of the pyramids and mounds that were
built as tombs and memorials to the dead are rather easy. The condition of the
site and depth of the findings are important aspects. This depends on the formation
of the site. It is basically a geological process. Natural agencies are important
factors for formation and transformation of site.
In case of caves and rock shelters continued occupation over thousands of years
left a layered deposit of debris some tens of feet in depth. The accumulation of
debris in caves thus can be explained as the joint result of man and natural
processes. As for example family moving into a cave might bring in some branches
of grass to cover the damp, hard floor where they wanted to sit and sleep and
some rocks to sit on. They would bring in wood and branches to build fires. The
hunters would kill animals and bring their dead bodies into the cave and when
they had finished their meals they would throw the bones to one side. As natural
erosion of the cave or rock shelter took place, bits of rock and dirt would flake
Kind of deposition Deposits made by geological agencies Natural deposition
Water and wind-laid materials Material brought by animals for their own consumption
Material prepared by animals for their own consumption, including by-products Structures, tools, etc. used by animal in their natural state Structures, tools, etc. manufactured by animal in their natural state Human deposition
of Space f the ceiling. Sometimes a major rock fall would bury the whole floor. Wind
might add appreciable quantities of fine soil over long periods of time, and watercarried
sediments might also add to the filling process. If occupation together
with natural events continued for thousands of years, the cave might finally be
filled to its top.
The great mounds (tells) that have accumulated in some parts of the world,
especially in the Near East, represent an example which shows that natural
processes have done more to take away than to add material. At Ur in
Mesopotamia, Woolley dug more than 90 feet to reach the base of the great
mound. These mounds occur in parts of the world where the chief building
material is mud. The people make bricks both of sun dried mud and fired bricks
they laid poles across them to form a roof on which they pile brush or matting,
and cover them with a thick layer of mud. It is practically impervious in these
arid regions where there is little rainfall. Despite the low rainfall and consequent
slow rate of erosion, the houses do deteriorate and eventually become unsafe for
continuous use. Then thrifty villagers scavenge the scarce poles used in the roof
and reuse them in new structure. After this, the bare walls standing there against
the wind and rain rapidly disintegrate and eventually leave a featureless mound
where the old house stood. After some time new houses are often built on the
same location, frequently several feet higher than the original house. One may
wonder why people as they customarily do in the Near East – chose to build on
top of old houses rather than pick a spot on level land. The reasons seem to be
that, with agricultural fields beginning at the edges of the settlements, there was
no room to expand, and often defensive walls were built around the towns.
The practice of building mounds by the deliberate heaping up of dirt or stone,
the practice of building mounds on which to place houses, public buildings, and
temples was common in the eastern United States as well as in Meso –America.
Indians in the upper Mississippi Valley region of the United States often made
mounds for the purpose of burial, some of them being in the form of animals,
birds and serpents.
For a variety of reasons some locations are more attractive than others, and these
spots may be continuously occupied or frequently reoccupied. A common cause
of the successive use of the same spot may lie in its presumed religious sanctity.
Often a shrine or church existed there, and later peoples may have lived. Perhaps
they belonged to a different religion and took advantage of the same site to build
their religious structure. In Europe the great cathedrals stand on the sites of pre
Christian shrines or temples.
1.4 RECOGNISINGAND FINDING ARCHAEOLOGICAL SITE
A wide variety of techniques, ranging from walking, to aerial photography to
magnetic prospecting, can be used to find sites. Fortunate discovery of sites are
a bit advantageous and are sometime can alter the general course of information.
1.4.1 Approaches for the Archaeologists
At the beginning to find sites in certain areas, an archaeologist must first
familiarise himself with the landscape and its potential for supporting different
Archaeological Units kinds of human activities. It is helpful also to have some general idea about the
kinds of sites that are likely to be found. For example, a person would normally
look in somewhat different places for sites of hunters and for sites of farmers,
hunters usually lived in relatively small camps and moved regularly in pursuit of
game. Such sites as they did occupy would have been in places where water,
game, and perhaps fuel could be obtained. Farmers, by contrast, ordinarily live
in permanent settlements and chose their sites with an eye toward arable land.
Archaeologists can then survey the landscape for suitable places on the basis of
this knowledge. Hills, grass grows, trees, and the location of sources of water
are the important indicator of finding the site. An unnatural contour of a hill, an
unusual kind of vegetation, soil, differing in color from that of the surrounding
area, is all clues to sites. If the grass grows more luxuriantly in the outlines of a
rectangle, it may mark the borders of an ancient ditch or house, and occasionally
the walls of houses may be exposed on the surface.
1.4.2 Finding Archeological Sites
The following criteria are chosen to locate a site. They are based either on
documentary evidence or on the basis of certain ways and means formulated for
the purpose of locating a site.
18.104.22.168 Existing Knowledge
Many archaeological sites have never been lost. The site may have been abandoned
but it may remain clearly visible in the landscape. It was not considered an
archaeological site as such. Classic sites like Stonehenge, the Great Wall of China,
or the Acropolis of Athens have always been known. There are many sites which
are known to local people like the lost civilization of Chandraketugarh where
the local people retain a major source of information about sites known to them,
even if this knowledge has not reached the archaeological record.
Archaeologist working in historic periods will use documents as one of their
main sources for the location of archaeological sites. Documents must, however,
always be treated with caution. The initial reason for the production of the
document must always be considered, and whether the absence of information is
simply because relevant documents have been lost.
Maps are perhaps one of the most important types of document to aid in the
location of sites. Earlier maps may locate countries, towns, villages and major
22.214.171.124 Aerial Photography
Aerial photography is the earliest and perhaps still the most important, remote
sensing tool available to archaeologist searching for new archeological sites.
Remote sensing involves any techniques which capture geographic data by sensors
at some distance from the surface being recorded. The main elements of remote
sensing are aerial photography, satellite images and geophysics. All data gathered
through remote sensing can be separated, combined, and manipulated through
the activity of image processing, which forms one of the key elements of
geographic information system (GIS).
Any site with humps and bumps, like banks or ditches, has the potential to show Space
as a shadow site. Crop marks often produce the most dramatic aerial photographs.
Crop marks are basically the result of differential speed and quality of crop growth
and ripening, depending on sub-surface conditions. Essentially if the soil is deeper
in one spot in the field, the crop above will have access to more nutrients and
moisture than crops above shallow soil. Crops above a ditch or pit for example
will grow more rapidly and strongly, be taller, and ripen more slowly than those
above a wall or floor, which are likely to be weaker, shorter, and ripen more
rapidly. Crops above deeper soils will produce positive crop marks, while those
above shallow soils will produce negative crop marks.
126.96.36.199 Ground Survey
Archeological sites may also be found by systematic ground survey. This can be
approached in a variety of ways, depending on the aims of the survey and the
available time and money. Geophysical survey techniques are part of the battery
of remote sensing techniques which include aerial photography and satellite
images. Like all remote sensing techniques, geophysical surveying is a non –
destructive method of site investigation, so has obvious advantages over
excavation when dealing with the finite archaeological resources. Resistivity
survey of the soil provides some clue to subsurface features on archaeological
sites. Magnetic survey is used to find burial features such as iron objects, fired
clay furnace, pottery kilns, hearths and pits filled with rubbish or softer soil.
Beside these, exploration by foot is an age old method of finding archaeological
1.5 CONTEXT SPECIFIC OF SITE
Settlement Archaeology includes the study of both permanent and temporary
interaction of humans with surrounding geophysical setting in order to understand,
how they are adapted to it. Archaeologists also try to understand the ways in
which the people in the past understood their surrounding landscape through
some ideas; initially conducive to live in and availability of food and water were
the two primary considerations, and towards the ancient historic time, ownership,
territory and status were given specific consideration. The settlement archaeology
mainly focuses the placing of structures or other features within a settlement.
Artifacts and ecofacts are used for studying the distribution of past activities of
man. In Prehistory different sites have been found such as habitational sites,
ceremonial sites, hill sites, graves, trading centers and camp. Looking at the
modern world there is diversity among the settlements such as primary
manufacturing centers, market town, suburbs or rural hamlet, centre of
transportation, fishing and agriculture. If we consider the specialised functions
of prehistoric sites firstly there is a conception of how people live and behave. It
also can be studied by ethnography, study of contemporary people and the modern
primitive communities. One group of people may use a number of sites that
have different specialised functions. Hunters frequently observed game mainly
from forest, religious activities are often carried out in sacred places and interior
territories (rural or villages) in winter may be placed for protection from wind
with the availability of fuel. Summer camps are selected at places which might
have been more comfortable than other parts of the territory. Manufacturing of
artifacts depend on the sources of raw materials. In modern times, most of the
Archaeological Units people are permanently settled at a place where rapid and efficient transportation and communication are available compared to total inconvenience of early man
who moved like animal in a forest environment.
The second function may examine the content of the sites. Sometimes caves
were used as base camp and rock shelters served as a butchering station. In the
absence of domestic refuges with the geographic context specific use of the site
could be inferred.
1.6 SPATIAL UNIT: AREAAND REGION
The spatial units have been referred to thus far are all confined to the boundaries
of one community. They reflect the activities of the maximum number of people
who occupied the settlement at some time. Prehistorians seek to understand the
wider scale though archaeological research was carried out on single site. Several
communities or a scattered population living in a well defined region may be
linked to same subsistence or settlement system. Culture behaviour is identified
by patterning the ancient assemblages with background of geographical and
environmental data in a particular settlement and across the settlement.
A number of spatial units are in common use.
1.6.1 Archaeological Culture
Culture is consistent patterning of assemblages, the archaeological equivalents
of human societies. Archaeological culture is the reflection of material remains
of human culture preserved at a specific space and time at several sites.
1.6.2 Culture Areas
It is a large geographical area in which characteristic of an archaeological culture
exist in the context of time and space. For example Mayan cultural system and
Mayan culture area.
1.6.3 Archaeological Regions
This is generally described as well defined geographic areas bounded by
geographic features, such as oceans, lakes or mountains. The ecological and
cultural boundaries throughout prehistoric times also have been considered.
Regional approaches involve comparison of artifacts from a few scattered
settlements. This is based on a research strategy sampling the entire region and
reconstructs of many more aspects of prehistoric life than those uncovered at a
1.7 SETTLEMENT ARCHAEOLOGY
Settlement archaeology is the study of changing human settlement pattern and
interaction of people and their external environment, both natural and cultural.
The layout of the human settlement on the landscape, are the result of relationship
between people who decided to place their houses, settlement and religious
structure on the basis of political, economic and social considerations. Settlement
archaeology reflects the society and its technological adaptation to the specific
environment on the one hand and trading relationship, exploitation and social Space
organisation on the other hand.
1.7.1 Determinants of Settlement Patterns
Settlement patterns are determined by many factors related to the environment,
economic practices and technological skill. For example the distribution of San
camp in the Kalahari Desert depends on the availability of water supplies and
vegetable foods. Village lay out also reflect the idea about the need to protect
from predators or war parties.
The determinants of settlement patterns operated on at least three levels each is
formed by a number of factors as below.
1) Building or structure: Houses, household cluster and activity are units of
2) Communities: The arrangement of structures within a single group
constitutes a community. The community is defined as a maximal group of
persons who normally reside in face to face association.
3) Distribution of communities: The density and distribution of communities,
whatever their size is determined to a considerable extent by the natural
resources in their environment and by the economy, nutritional requirements
and technological level of the population as well as by socio religious
1.7.2 Hunter-Gatherer Sites
Karl Butzer (1982) studied the Lower Paleolithic Acheulian sites of Ambrona
and Torralba in Central Spain. He argued that early hunter gatherers shared the
ability of large grazing animal to adopt different feeding habits and seasonal
movement according to the abundance of resources through the year. Ambrona
and Torralba lie along the only low latitude mountain pass dividing the plains of
Castile. This was the route through which the large mammals migrated in spring
and fall from winter to summer pastures and back again. The Acheulian people
hunt these animals. During other season of the year they spread over the
neighbouring country in temporary camps near water and constantly moving herds.
Distribution of economic resources such as dif Space ferent types of land with separate
pasture land, cultivation and so on affects the settlement pattern. Soil distribution,
texture, depth, sub soil are important factors. The earliest European farmers
concentrated on well drained easily dug soils because they did not use heavy
Available technology, land clearance technique, available transport, crop types
exploited and other factors within site are also responsible for clustering.
Topography influences the placement of agricultural sites in relation to their
neighbours, affected direction of trade routes and encourages or inhibits
communication. The ancient Egyptian depended on the Nile for transportation
and water and the present successors still do the same.
Trade network play a leading role in the emergence of central places in great
Agricultural settlements are affected by so many environmental, economic, social
and other factors. Agricultural settlements were far more dependent on one another
than those of hunter-gatherer.
Tool is a smallest unit of Culture. Cluster of tools made at a place during a
particular time is called an Industry. A cluster of industries of a particular locality
belonging to a particular time is called a Culture in prehistory. Again a cluster of
a number of cultures of a given locality forms a larger unit called a Civilization.
Therefore tools and tool families lead one to understand the different Culture of
early man and so the knowledge of tools helps in knowing both the tangible and
the non-tangible aspects of a Culture.
Tools differ from culture to culture and so its making. Tools develop in conformity
with the regular upward trend of physical and technological evolution. Chopper
is a tool on pebbles both small and large and appeared during the early part of the
Palaeolithic times followed by the Chopper-Chopping tools, and handaxes,
cleavers and disc occur later. All these are classified as Core tools or heavy duty
tools. Flake tools or light-duty tools were made at the end of the Lower Palaeolithic
times. Earlier to Lower Palaeolithic, some controversial tools were collected
from parts of England, and scholars and researchers belonging to Earth Sciences
and history gave them a status with a name called Eoliths and the period assigned
to them was the Eolithic time. Tool families of each and every cultural phase of
different ages of humankind reflect different physical features those resulted
from the application of a some kind of tool-making method. Prehistorians and
archaeologists have given some names to the tools according to the nature of
work it performed together with the name of a technique, which was applied in
making the particular tool. Therefore tools are time specific.
Large sized tools such as handaxes, cleavers, chopping tools are observed
in Lower Palaeolithic stage; flake – tools like scrapers, points and borers
etc. found in Middle Palaeolithic stage; and blade tool technology is the
characteristic feature of Upper palaeolithic culture.
2.2 RAW MATERIAL
Early man used both perishable and non-perishable materials for making tools
for his day-to-day subsistence and for survival as well. Tools of perishable
materials like wood and bamboo do not survive in archaeological ruins but from
ethnographic sources, evidence about such tools is very much obtainable.
Prehistorians and archaeologists could also trace tools from perishable materials
amongst the modern primitive communities during their visits on research
exploration. In Southeast Asia, chopper is used in making bamboo and wooden
tools. On the other hand, plenty of stone tools reach the hands of Prehistorians
and archaeologists, and who, on their part do reconstruct the culture of early
man on the basis of tools unearthed from stratigraphic sequences.
Three basic rocks namely, the igneous, metamorphic and indurated sedimentary
were chosen in making a stone tool. But early man’s preference primarily
pinpointed at the igneous rocks for the purpose of making tools. Flint was the
most preferred variety of rock in Europe followed by quartzite in Africa and in
Indian Sub-continent. Igneous rock comprises agate, chart, chalcedony, jasper
and quartz and other precious and semi-precious stones.
The raw material used to manufacture a given set of tools can show whether this
was quarried from distant outcrops or these are merely picked up from available
river bed. Former reveals early man’s advanced knowledge about a better quality
of rock types and the latter was a common source of rock in the form of gravel,
boulders and gravels in a river valley.
2.1.1 Tool Classificatory (Basic in brief)
Name Cultural Period Age
Chopper, Chopper-chopping, Abbevillean/Acheulean Lower Palaeolithic
Scraper, Mousterian points Mousterian Middle Palaeolithic
Blades, Points and Bone tools Aurignacian, Solutrean, Upper Palaeolithic
Microliths Mesolithic Middle Stone Age
Celt (Axe, Adze, Chisel and Neolithic New Stone Age
2.3 TECHNIQUE OF MANUFACTURE
The techniques used in fabricating stone tools were recorded on the basis of
experiments done by experts from the disciplines of prehistory and archaeology.
Techniques were learnt amongst the primitive communities learnt in Pacific regions, Tool Families
Southeast Asia, Andaman and Nicobar, Africa and many territories of the globe.
To know the stone fabrication techniques, go through the relevant portion on
tool technology from Unit 3.
2.4 STATE OF PRESERVATION
Antiquities are deposited by one or more natural activities. Very often these are
carried by river and are rolled. At times fine deposition of line encrustation or
iron, aluminium or chromium patination can be seen spread over the surface of
the tool. It is an accepted methodology in Archaeology to use these or other
degrees of rolling, patination or encrustation to decide the relative antiquity of
the discovered specimens. It comes quite handy when one needs to separate a
group of tools which have got mixed with another fresh looking group of tools.
One needs to delve into the fact that both tool types and their method of
manufacture have a kind of observed hierarchisation. For instance, core tools
characterise Lower Palaeolithic and even in this one can say that stone hammer
technique occurs earlier than cylinder hammer techniques. In the same way flake
tools characterise Middle Palaeolithic and Thick blade tools (not fluted blades
but punched blades) characterise Upper Palaeolithic.
This term, in a strict sense, does not refer to any specific tool type. There are
many kind of tools that can be prepared on pebbles. However, many authors use
this term to include two tool types. These are Choppers and Chopping tools.
The term chopper was first used by Hallum J. Movius Jr. for the first time in
1942 while describing tools collected from Sohan Valley, then in North-West
India. Subsequently this term is used all over in European, African and Asian
A broad and thick pebble which is broken transversely is chosen. Then with this
transverse-end as platform few scars are removed from one of the surfaces in
such a manner that the remaining part of the platform appears projected as a
transverse cutting edge. Generally all choppers have a transverse cutting edge,
but if the flaking produces a pointed end such a type can be called a pointed
Sometimes the flaking is done alternatively from both the surfaces of the pebble.
These were termed chopping tools by Movius. A chopping tool also has a
transverse working end but this border is sinuous because of alternate flaking.
Since both these types are essentially similar in morphology and technique of
manufacture except for the fact that a chopping tool is bifacial, many authors
today do not count these as two separate types and call them as unifacial and
bifacial choppers respectively.
Choppers are one of the predominant too types in Lower Palaeolithic of East
Africa and here these are also called Oldowan after the name of Olduvi Gorge
where these occur through several levels. In Europe these describes from
Clactonian in England as also from Central Europe. Mostly these are all grouped
together in a techno-complex termed Mode I.
Every piece of stone has two surfaces, two borders and 2 ends. If both these
surfaces are worked and hence covered with flake scars, such a specimen is
called a core tool. If both the surfaces are not worked (i.e., maintains original
cortex) but only borders are worked then also this specimen will get classified as
a core tool.
Basically there are three major types that will get classified as core tool. These
i) Discoid core: These are circular cores, as the name suggests. Flakes are
removed from all around the circumference. The maximum thickness of
the tool is in the centre. It can be worked unifacially or even bifacially.
These can be profitably used for cutting or shaving wood.
ii) Handaxe: Handaxe is one of the most prolific tool type found all over the
world during the entire length of lower Palaeolithic. However, this tool
type is not quite common in all the south east Asia. It is also designated to
form the techno-complex, Model II.
It is essentially a biface prepared in such a manner that one end of the specimen
is broader and thicker while the other end is narrow and sharp. It is because of
this sharp and pointed end that many authors started calling the “working end”.
The opposite end which is often thick and bulbus was called the “butt-end’. Tool Families
However, since these terms refer to assumed function strict structuralist prepared
to call them the anterior and the posterior ends, respectively.
When the handaxe prepared is massive and the technique used is block-on-block
or stone hammer technique such handaxes are taken to characterise lower
Acheulian tradition. These specimens are often more than 15 cm in length and
maintain sinuous working borders. The reduction sequence and planning of these
tools show a great deal of perfection and planning with distinct cognition of the
Once the technique shifts to cylinder hammer all the rough edges are regularised
and smoothened by careful series of retouchings. The handaxe now become 6-
14 cm in length and are as perfect in shape as to be compared with an almond
(amygdaloid), a lance head (lanceolate) or even a heart (cordiform). Some of the
middle to Upper Acheulian Handaxes also show a distinct extended S-twist as
the lateral or working border. One of the most evolved of these handaxe is an
Ovate. This is a type where the maximum thickness shifts from the proximal or
butt end to the centre. The shape of the tool is slightly elongated elliptical. The
entire tool is covered with extensive dressing all along the circumference. In
shape these compare with the sports item discuss that is used as a missile. The
only difference is that the Ovate is not circular.
If a core has been shaped like a handaxe but one of the surfaces is entirely original
cortex then such a specimen can be called a proto-handaxe. This is mainly because
handaxe by definition has to be a biface. Thus, leaving an entire surface untouched
shows that it has not been finished, hence the name. If, however, one of the
surfaces has single flake scar with a positive bulb of percussion then this needs
to be called a flake handaxe. In some countries in the old world flake handaxes
are quite common in middle and upper Acheulian evidences.
This is also a biface like a handaxe, with the only difference that here the working
end is broad, transverse and not pointed. The difference between this type and
handaxe is so little that Francois Borders suggested that these should not be
counted as two separate types. The generic type was named ‘Biface and handaxe’
and cleavers are re designated as two sub types of this.
In India and Africa a large majority of cleavers are prepared on medium sized
flakes. A flat and sloping scar is so removed from the anterior end that this
intersects with scar of detachment of the under surface to give rise to a transverse
working end. The lateral borders are worked in such a manner that the cross
section of the tool appears like a parallelogram.
Thus, whether on a core or on a flake the cleavers generally will have parallel Tool Families
side represented by lateral borders culmination into a sharp border across the
axis at the anterior end. These cleavers as a rule have a shape like a ‘U’. In some
cases the sharp border is not actually across the mid axis and is inclined to the
right or left. Such cleavers are designated as a cleavers with inclined working
edge. There are yet some cleavers where the posterior end is both thick and also
pointed. Such cleavers are called ‘V’ shaped cleavers is contradistinction to what
has earlier been described as ‘U’ shaped cleavers. Both these varieties of cleavers
can be either made transverse or inclined.
For statistical analysis as also for computation of proportion of core tools to
flake tools, handaxes and cleavers made on flakes are classified within core-tool
A flake can be big when detached from massive cores. But such massive flakes
are seldom used to make flake tools. These are usually made on flakes which do
not exceed 8 to 9 cm in length. The larger flakes are often the staring point for
preparing a handaxes or cleaver but not what is understood by the term flake tool.
A flake becomes a tool only when it is worked and very precisely ‘retouched’
along any one or the both the longitudinal edge. The area so worked determines
the type of a flake tool. Here a word of explanation is required for the word
“retouching.” A series of nibblings executed in a contiguous manner along a
border is called retouching. A flake tool seldom shows any kind of attention to
its surfaces. (Refer to relevant portion on tool technology from Unit 3.)
In case of a piece of flake tool, a bulb of percussion appears on the main flake
surface at the point of impact of the hammer blow, characteristically both of
them remain untouched excepting employment of retouching on the edges. On
the other hand opposite surface will show some flake scars of earlier workmanship
or the traces of original pebble cortex, and largely remained untouched. In case
of levalloisean flake, of course, the entire dorsal surface will show the centrally
directed flake scars removed before the ‘flake’ was detached from the parent
lump of stone or a prepared core.
There are four predominant flake tool types. These are (i) side scraper, (ii) point,
(iii) Borer and (iv) Knife.
Side Scarper: This is the most prolific tool type of the Middle Palaeolithic
period. A simple flake is taken and retouching are delivered along one of its
borders. This is designated as a ‘single side scraper’ when one border is retouched.
This border can be convex, concave or straight. To determine if the border is
convex etc. a simple method is prescribed. Bring a pencil or a scale and touch
the retouched border. If it touches the straight pencil at one point then call this
border convex. If it touches at two points then call the border concave. If it
touches at more than two points call the border straight. Thus, we see that a
single side scarper can have three sub types. These will be written as ‘Single
Side Scraper Convex’, ‘Single Side Scarper Concave’ and ‘Single Side Scarper
Straight’. Another variety of side scraper can be when two of its borders are
retouched in such a manner that they do not meet. Such side scrapers will have
six possible sub-types. These will be written as ‘Double Side Scraper bi-convex’
Archaeological Units or ‘double side scraper concave-convex’ and so on. If the two scraping borders
meet at a point then such side scrapers are termed ‘Convergent side scrapers’. In
this category we do not count size sub types. Here concave is taken as the most
dominant feature, straight the next dominant and convex the least dominant. So
that if the two borders in a convergent side scraper are straight and convex it will
be called straight. In the same way, if the two borders are straight and concave it
will be called concave. Thus convergent side scarper straight will have only two
convergent borders. In a tabular form it will be as follows:
Convergent side scraper convex – Convex + Convex
Convergent side scarper straight – a) Convex + straight
b) Straight + straight
Convergent Side Scraper Concave – a) Concave + Concave
b) Convex + Concave
c) Straight + concave
The relative frequencies of all these varieties of side scrapers, their manner of Tool Families
preparation and the various sub types provide a very useful tool that demonstrates
regional variations in respect of adaptation and skill as also the fashioning trends.
Point: A flake is so retouched along its two converging borders that a pointed
end is projected anteriorly. The emphasis of this point is more sturdy than sharp
in Middle Palaeolithic. In Upper Palaeolithic these points are both thinner and
sharper. In many cases the converging borders are not more towards the pointed
region. The base of this triangle shaped can also be given a lateral in curve like a
shoulder. Such specimens can be called single shouldered point. If a similar
shoulder is made on the other side of the base it will be called a double shouldered
point or an arrow head (Aterian culture in North Africa abounds in this tool
type). As mentioned, varieties of points dominate in European Upper Palaeolithic
after the Mousterian Culture of the same territory. Authors of the former were
the Homo Sapiens sapiens i.e. the Cro-Magnon, Grimaldi and the Chancelede
whereas Homo sapiens i.e. Homo Neanderthalensis ruled the latter.
These are usually prepared on sturdy flakes. Two lateral in curves are made in
such a manner that a part of the flake projects out in the manner of a spike. Some
times on suitable flakes only one lateral in curve is enough to get the boring edge
project out. Such borers are termed ‘atypical borers’.
The method of producing lateral in curves on the border of flake is also termed
as a Notch. Such types can be prepared both on a flake as also on a blade. If two
Archaeological Units or more notches are prepared in a contiguous manner such a type is called a
Denticulate. Like in the earlier case a Denticulate also can be prepared on both
flakes as also on blades.
‘Knife’ as a type of flake tool was not recognised till about 1965 when Francois
Borders published his recommendations for Lower and Middle Palaeolithic tool
types. This is prepared on a thick elongated flake. One of the lateral edges or
borders is thick and is blunted by removing several step scars. The other edge or
the border is sharp and runs along the lengthwise axis of the flake. The two
surfaces of the flake intersect and thus produce a sharp cutting edge to work
with. The finished specimen looks exactly like a single pool of a common orange.
The thicker edge is meant for holding in hand of the worker and the opposite
sharp in cutting and scraping. It also designated to form the techno-complex,
Blade tool types
A blade is a long flake that has two parallel margins with the presence of thin
elongated flake marks on one of its surface. Normally, it has a length more than
or equal to twice its breadth. That is, every blade is essentially a flake but every
flake is not a blade. These are usually 8-9 cm in length, 2-3 cm in breadth and
1-2 cm in thickness. The technique of their manufacture is punching, i.e., indirect
percussion with an antler used as an intermediate puncher. Since blade is also
the term used for microliths produced by fluting technique it is advisable to use
the term punched blades or ‘Upper Palaolithic Blades’ for these thick blades.
For those prepared by fluting the term used is either as ‘P.S. Blades’ (parallel
Tool Families sided blades) or simply fluted blades. There are numerous types of tools that are
produced on blades during Upper Palaeolithic, but the most dominant among
them are (i) Retouched Blades, (ii) Backed Blades, (iii) Burins (iv) End Scraper
and (v) Leaf points.
i) Retouched blades
These are one of the most characteristic types found in the Aurignacian
tradition of Southwest France. In fact in European prehistory these are
designated as “aurignacian blades’.
A blade can be retouched in two distinct manners: In one case, the edge or
the border is so retouched that its sharpness does not disappear but reinforced.
This kind of retouching is called semi abrupt retouching. Thus, one makes
a distinction between Retouched Blade (wherein semi abrupt retouching
are executed) and Backed Blade (wherein retouching are steeply executed
in order to blunt the other border of the blade).
Archaeological Units A retouched blade is a thick blade which is retouched in a semi abrupt manner
all around the four borders of the rectangular blade. The finished specimen
looks like a slug with a flat ventral surface.
ii) Backed blades
These are blades in which one of the sharp borders of the blade is blunted
with the help of steep flaking. The manner in which this backing is done
determines the type.
a) If the backing is done in such a manner that the backed border meet the
sharp border at a wide angle the type is called Chattelperronean knife.
Here, it is important to emphasise that we have already defined a type
called knife in flake tool type. A Chattelperronean knife is made on a
blade and is an upper Palaeolithic tool, in opposition to the flake knife
which is a Middle Palalaeolithic tool type.
b) If the backing is done in such a manner that the backed border meets the
sharp border at an acute angle then the specimen is called ‘Gravettian Blade’.
Both Chattelperronean knife as well as the Gravettian Blade are the type of
tools for an Upper Palaeolithic tradition of France called Perigordian.
These are blades in the anterior end of which a screw-driver like edge is
prepared by the careful removal of two sloping facets. It is done with a
vertical blow of a light at one end of a blade held upright. These facets intersect
to form the working edge which is equal to the thickness of the blade. Since
two facets meeting at an acute angle give rise to the working edge the type is
also referred to as ‘dyhedral angle burin’. These are large number of subtypes
of burins identified in Southwest French Prehistoric time. These are ‘Basque
Burin’, ‘Nailles Burin’, ‘Bec-deflute Burin’ and ‘Parrot Beak Burin’.
Essentially all these subtypes of Burins are all dehyderal angle burins, it is
only the manner in which these two hedras are created that separates one type
from the other. A Burin is also named as ‘graver’ and was used in engraving
art objects in caves and rock shelters in Western Europe.
Fig. 2.9: Different kinds of Burines
Tool Families iv) End Scarper
A scarping border made of the morphological end of a flake forms this type.
However, since neither a circular or square flake can have an end it is mainly
on a blade that one can have a morphological end. Thus, end scrapers are
thick blades in which the terminal end has been given these retouchings.
These are delivered from the flat under surface of the blade in almost a semi
abrupt manner. There is another variety of end scarper prepared on thick
egg shaped nodules and these are called Carinated End Scarper. The egg
shaped nodule is first directed in an oblong manner and then with the flat
surface so obtained as platform one edge of the circular edge is given steep
retouchings. The tool can conveniently be used in the manner of a carpenters
push plain. Sometimes two notches are removed from the two edges of the
retouched border so that looking from top it looks like a nose. Hence, the
type is called Nosed-end scarper (Otherwise it is essentially counted only as
a variety of carinated end scarper). The last two tool types are characteristic
of French Aurignacian.
v) Leaf Points
This is a very characteristic tool type of Solutrean tradition of French Upper
Palaeolithic. Here flat flakes or blades measuring in average 6 cm × 2 cm
are given series of scars on both the surfaces by pressure flaking technique.
As a result the blades are so reduced in thickness that they tend to be less
than 1 cm in thickness. The anterior end is then pointed. These look like
leaves of a tree and hence the name. In France these are called Laurel leaf
points. In slightly later period these leaf points are short and unifacillay
worked. These may or may not have a shoulder also knocked out on them.
These are called Willow Leaf Points. It also designated to form the technocomplex,
Microliths: This is a name given to tools which are prepared on fluted blades.
As a consequence they are, an average much smaller than the prehistoric
tools described earlier. Hence they are named ‘microlith’. These are so small
that no body can imagine that they could have been used individually. Further,
cave paintings as also some evidences from excavated material have now
confirmed that these were used by hafting in combination to produce the
ultimate weapons to be used as a ‘composite tool’. Arrow head and harpoons
are two of the most common possible use for them. Microliths start occurring
from around 14000 BC and continues till agriculture began during 6000
BC. In fact, in lower frequency, these can be seen to continue even during
Iron Age in many parts of the Old World. In India, microliths are known to
be used even today by Korwa tribe of Mirzapur district for cutting the
umbilical cord of the new born baby. Some authors even identified microliths
prepared on glass by some tribes. The glass is obtained from discarded wine
bottles by World War II soldiers. Microlithic tool types are mostly prepared
by blunting a sharp border. The most common types are Lunates, Obliquely
blunted blades and trapezes. Besides these, one can also see some Upper
Palaeolithic types repeated on these micro blades. These are end scrapers
When no triangles or trapezes are present in a microlithic cluster, it is often
designated as ‘Non-Geometric Microliths’. In case the cluster has triangles and
trapezes this is designated as ‘Geometric Microliths’.
Lunate or Crescent: If one border of a blade is so blunted that it is semi circular
in shape and meets the sharp border at two points such a type is called ‘Lunate’.
Obliquely blunted blades: These are similar to Gravettian points with the only
difference that these are prepared on these smaller fluted blades.
Triangles and Trapezes: These are blades blunted in such a manner that they
take up these geometric shapes.
Grinding and Polishing: This is a technique that has evolved in the last phase
of stone age (Neolithic). It is believed that one of the most important issues
linked with survival was to clear virgin forests and create agricultural fields. The
sturdy axes they used to know earlier will get stuck within the split of the tree
trunk. Consequently they chose to smoothen the surfaces of these axes by what
is described as Grinding and Polishing technique. The type which is prepared by
this technique is called a celt. Celt is a generic name and includes such types as
Axes, Adzes, Chisel, Wedges.
The technique involves the following steps:
Flakes: A suitable rock is chosen and then it is flaked in the shape of an axe
(similar to a cleaver in Lower Palaeolithic).
Pecking: A pointed hammer (mostly an anther tip) is used to systematically break
all the ridges on the surfaces of the axe. These ridges are created when two
flakes scars intersect.
Grinding: The flaked or pecked flake or core is later grounded on a stone slab to Tool Families
get the required shape and size with the production of a working edge.
Polishing: The axes so prepared are now having a more or less smooth and
regular surface. These are now rubbed on hard granite stone with sand and water
thrown in from time to time. The result of this action creates on axe which,
unless told, can be mistaken as a metal axe. It is so shining.
Usually all axes are biconvex in cross-section. These are, however, some which
are plano-convex in cross section. These are believed to be used for chiseling.
These are called ‘Adzes’. Some Adzes have an elongated body and a slightly
narrowed anterior end. These are called ‘Shoe-last celts’, on the assumption that
these were probably hafted as a shoe to the primitive ploughs.
Finally another type that emerges with this technique is called a ‘Ring Stone’.
There are flat round stones in the centre of which a hole is made using a spindle
with hard quartz as the tip. The extremely varied size and shape of these ring
stones make it very difficult to comment on their probable function. The general
view is that the massive ones were probably used as mace head for pounding
crops, while the small ones were probably used as net sinkers in nets used for
Although prehistorians and archaeologists are sure that the early man initially
used some kind of natural tools made of perishable materials, the emergence of
a stone tool technology during the course of hominid evolution marks a radical
behavioural departure from the rest of the animal world and constitutes the first
definitive evidence in the prehistoric record of a simple lithic cultural tradition
(i.e., one based upon learning). Although other animals (such as the Egyptian
vulture, the California sea otter, and C. Darwin’s Galapagos finch) may use simple
unmodified tools, or even manufacture and use simple tools (as in the termiting
and nut-cracking behaviour of wild chimpanzees), a fundamental aspect of human
adaptation is a strong reliance upon technology for survival and adaptation. Tool Technologies
Archaeological evidence shows a geometric increase in the sophistication and
complexity of hominid stone technology over time since its earliest beginnings
Stone is the principal raw material found in nature. It is very hard and at the
same time is suitable to produce effective working edges when fractured into
pieces. A wide range of tasks can be executed with a piece of well fractured
stone those include animal butchery (hide slitting, disarticulation, meat cutting,
bone breaking), woodworking (chopping, scraping, sawing), hide scraping, plant
cutting, and bone and antler working. Although other perishable materials, such
as wood and bamboo including other raw materials susceptible to decay like
bone, horn, and shell, were probably used early in the evolution of hominid
technology. Tools made of stone are relatively indestructible and so provide the
longest and most detailed record of prehistoric tool manufacture. Therefore stone
tools supplemented biological loss like loss of sharp canines and claws as a
means of adaptation to the environment during the course of human evolution,
and the study of their manufacture and potential uses reveals important
information about the evolution of human culture that was substantiated with
the two free hands with opposable thumbs, erect posture together with a high
3.1.1 The Earliest Tools
The earliest archaeological sites bearing definite flaked-stone artifacts (Oldowan
or Omo industry) include those found in Member from the Omo Valley (Ethiopia),
dated to ca. 2.4Ma, the archaeological sites from the Gona region of Hadar
(Ethiopia) at 2.5–2.6Ma, the sites at Lokalalei (Kenya) at 2.34Ma and possibly
Senga-5 (Zaire), between 2.3 and 2Ma. Other sites believed to be at least 1.5
Myr include those in Member E at Omo; Koobi Fora (Kenya) in and above the
KBS Tuff at Olduvai Gorge (Tanzania) Beds I and II; and Peninj, west of Lake
Natron (Tanzania). The stone artifacts from the South African caves of Swartkrans
and Sterkfontein (Member 5) may be put in the same time range as well.
3.2 RAW MATERIALS
It was quite obvious that early man after the loss of the power of canine and
claw, was certainly having a kind of habit to pick some natural objects of
perishable and non-perishable materials to defend him and in search of his food.
It is true that tools from perishable raw materials do not survive in archaeological
ruins but one can substantiate the use of such objects rather a tool from
ethnographic sources. Therefore when raw materials of prehistoric tools are
concerned, it classified into ‘perishable’ and ‘non-perishable’ objects.
3.2.1 Perishable Materials
Perishable materials comprise materials like wood, bamboo and different parts
of animal bones.
3.2.2 Non-perishable Materials
The typical rock from which artifacts are produced are relatively fine grained
hard igneous rocks suitable to fracture easily in any direction (i.e., they are
Archaeological Units Commonly used rock types are flint or chert, quartzite, quartz, agate, chalcedony,
jasper and various other igneous rocks, including obsidian (volcanic glass). Some
materials namely flint or chert, can be more easily worked after heat treatment (a
controlled heating that alters crystal structure), a practice that may have begun in
Late Paleolithic times.
The different types of raw materials vary widely in their overall spatial
distributions and in time in terms of size, shape, quantity, and quality. They may
be found in primary geological context, that is, at their site of origin or formation,
such as a lava flow, quartz vein, quartzite layer, or flint nodule seam, or they may
be in secondary (redeposited) context, such as cobbles in river gravels or rocks
forming the pavement of desert surfaces.
Both the cultural rules regarding artifact design and the intended use of a tool
influence the tool types those are found in the prehistoric record. Cultural norms
and functional requirements in addition to size, shape, quality, and flaking
characteristics of the stone material also can strongly affect the kind of artifact.
More sophisticated, delicately flaked artifacts can generally be made in finegrained
materials like high-quality flint and chert than are usually made in coarsegrained
rocks. The relative abundance or scarcity of stone suitable for flaking
affects the qualities, quantities and sizes of artifacts. For this reason the artifacts
made in rock available locally often tend to be larger and found in greater numbers
than artifacts made from stone transported over greater distances.
In general, there is increasing selectivity in use of stone materials over time in
the Palaeolithic age. Later Stone Age people were found to concentrate more on
finer-grained, high quality rock sources, often quite localized in distribution and
transported from some distance. Stone tools are broadly categorised into Core
tool and Flake tool. Subsequently different tool-making tools are associated with
3.3 FRACTURE MECHANICS OF STONE
One type of fracture observed in stone-tool manufacture is often called conchoidal
fracture. This means conch shell like ripples or swirls that is generally evident in
the artifacts manufactured in finer-grained materials. In stone-tool manufacture,
a sufficiently enough force is applied to the stone in a controlled fashion. The
stone usually fractures in alignment with its crystalline structure; thus, noncrystalline
or finer-grained materials, especially isotropic materials with no
preferential cleavage planes, such as obsidian or flint, tend to produce a smoother
and more predictable fracture.
The stone is deliberately fractured (or flaked) either through a sharp, percussive
blow (direct or indirect flaking) or through the application of a compressive
force (pressure flaking). The parent piece of rock is called the core, and the spills
so removed are named the flakes.
Fracture in core is done by a hammer placed at an acute angle (less than 90°) to
the core. For this reason, in manufacturing tools from rounded pieces of rock,
such as stream cobbles, which have got pronounced overhangs or are with
flattened edges tend to be easier to flake than more spherical pieces. When a
hammer strikes the core obliquely and with sufficient force near one of these
edges, a flake is detached, that results in an associated scar called a ‘flake scar;
on the core
3.4 SOME TERMINOLOGICAL UNDERSTANDING
The mechanics of flake formation in stone tool making and use are basically the
same and any differences that occur can be attributed to scale. As much as possible
archaeologists and anthropologists use nonspecific language to describe the
phenomenon of flaking, and here following Cotterell and Kamminga, (1987)
some such terms are described, most of which is indicated in the following
A ‘flake’ is a kind of fragment detached from a nucleus. A nucleus or ‘core’ is a
piece of rock from which a flake is detached, and the selected core, which is
considered as a ‘future tool’ after it is picked up and finally it is systematically
transformed into a ‘tool’. It is important that before the selection of a core, the
tool maker was certainly having a kind of positive notion in his mind regarding
shape, size and future use of the tool.
3.5 BASIC STONE TOOL MAKING TECHNIQUES
The Basic stone tool making techniques can be divided in the following way
3.5.1 Percussion Technique
The simplest and most obvious way to remove a flake is by directly striking the
stone with another object preferably a stone as a hammer. The earliest crude
stone tools were primarily the result of direct percussion; there were great
refinement in indirect percussion. The tool maker has been referred as a ‘knapper’
who used two types of hammer: a hard hammer or a stone hammer selected
mostly from a river pebble. and a soft hammer. The latter is a hammer of antler,
wood, bone, or other material, softer and more resilient than stone, hardened
pieces of long bones or antlers. Stone hammers continued in use since the Lower
Palaeolithic times. During Acheulean culture stone hammer was used but
cylindrical hammer as well as soft hammer was used for final shaping. Stone
hammer results in removal of large flakes and with the help of cylindrical hammer
smaller, shallow, round and fish scale like flakes are removed. Beside these one
of the earliest form of percussion method used by prehistoric people was Anvil
technique or Block-on-block technique and Bipolar technique. These were
prevalent in Lower Palaeolithic times.
188.8.131.52 Anvil Technique or Block-on-block Technique
A core is struck against a stationary anvil to produce flakes. This percussion
technique is sometimes used in flaking very large cores. The features on flakes
and cores are similar to hard-hammer percussion (Fig.3.4).
Fig.3.4: Anvil or Block-on-block technique (Modified from Whittaker, 1994)
184.108.40.206 Bipolar Technique
Simply involves Setting a core on an anvil and hitting the core from above with
a hammer stone, just like cracking a nut. This technique was often used for very
small or intractable, hard-to-flake raw materials. In such a case, ‘positive bulb of
percussion’ appears on both the ends of the tool. (Fig.3.5).
Fig. 3.5: Bipolar technique
220.127.116.11 Stone Hammer Technique
Usually refers to the use of a stone hammer used in making handaxes during
Abbevillean culture. In this technique large flakes were struck off and therefore
profile lines of the handaxes of that time are wavy (Fig. 3.6).
Fig. 3.6: Hard hammer percussion with a stone hammer. The knapper uses a precision grip
on the pebble hammer stone because not much force is needed. The blow strikes
the top of the core, and the flake comes off the underlying surface (Modified from
18.104.22.168 Cylinder Hammer Technique (Fig.3.7)
On the other hand, often means the use of a hammer of antler, wood, bone, or
other material softer and more resilient than stone. Such tools are often called
batons or billets. Soft hammers are less effective than hard for removing large
flakes from normal cores; so the use of a soft hammer often implies to bifaces
produced during the Acheulian culture of Lower Palaeolithic times. In case of
the entire handaxe industry of the Abbevillo-Acheulian culture, best piece of
handaxes were made with this technique, and ‘ovate’ from Europe was the
representative tool of this time. In Africa and India, ‘cleaver’ is a branded tool of
this culture. Small flakes were carefully removed with the said hammer from the
edge towards the centre of the tool and this was the advantage of the cylindrical
hammer, the blows of which could be given in a controlled way. In case of handaxe
industry of Lower Palaeolithic time, a handaxe is also known as a ‘biface’ or a
‘coup-de-poing’. In other cases, bifacial tool has been mentioned as similar to
handaxe, the blows fall on the edges, rather than on the flat platform surfaces of
normal cores. The edges of bifaces (handaxe like tools) in production are generally
strengthened by intentionally dulling them, because a thin, sharp edge will crush
under the blow rather than transmitting the force to a clean flake fracture. The
flakes produced in making bifaces have somewhat different traits from the normal
hard hammer core flake and are often referred to as biface thinning flakes.
Hammers of all degrees of hardness can be used somewhat interchangeably, and
the difference in the kinds of flakes produced depends in part on how the hammer
is used and what form of artifact is being worked. Quite often, a large flake
struck with a hard hammer is thinned and shaped with a soft hammer to make a
finished bifacial tool, or a previously prepared form (perform) that can be finished
by pressure flaking as described below.
Fig.3.7: Soft hammer Percussion using wood or antler (Modified from Whittaker, 1994,
22.214.171.124 Indirect Percussion or Punch Technique
Means that the blow is transmitted to the stone through an intermediate punch,
usually made of antler called a ‘puncher’. This is a relatively uncommon
technique, though there are several modern knappers who use different styles of
indirect percussion to thin bifaces. However, because the punch can be small,
and can be placed very precisely, indirect percussion has some advantages over
direct percussion techniques and is also used for making blades (long, straight
flakes) or for notching projectile points. The disadvantage is that tools must be
held with both hands, making it more difficult to stabilize the piece that is being
worked, and many modern Knappers find it slow and clumsy. Those modern
knappers who are expert at indirect percussion, however, consider it every bit as
good as more common techniques (Fig.3.8).
Fig.3.8: Indirect percussion with a large Antler punch (Modified from Whittaker, 2004)
Archaeological Units 3.6 PRESSURE FLAKING
The final category of knapping techniques is pressure flaking. In pressure flaking,
the force is applied by pressing instead of striking. This allows great precision,
but generally limits the amount of force. Pressure flaking is most often used for
the final work on refined tools like various leaf points, arrow-heads and for
notching and other details that cannot be done by percussion.
In pressure flaking, the point is held on a pad of some sort in the hand or
occasionally on a bench or table like object, while the other hand presses the tool
against the edge of the stone, directing the force both inward, to make the flake
run across the face being worked, and downward, which begins the fracture.
Pressure flaking can be made more powerful by adding the pressure of the legs,
or the leverage of a longer tool, called an Ishi stick by many knappers, which is
held under the arm. The name honuors Ishi, last survivor of a group of Yahi
Indians from California. His flint knapping skills and tools were recorded by a
number of early anthropologists and are admired by modern knappers. It is also
possible to remove very long flakes (called blades by archaeologists) from a
core by pressing with a chest crutch or other tool that allows the body weight to
be brought to bear (Fig. 3.9, 3.10 and 3.11).
Tool Technologies 3.7 GRINDINGAND POLISHING
It involves grinding and shaping a rock by rubbing it against another rock. Prior
to the said operation, the selected core for this purpose is processed by percussion
technique in giving a desired shape to the future tool. Partly flaked and ground –
edged tools bear the testimony of this application. Celts that include axes, adzes,
chisels and others were manufactured by this technique. Polishing is a stage that
is applied to give the tool a smooth and shining texture. This part of action is
done by rubbing the tool to furry animal skin. These techniques are applied on
hard grained material and often were useful for re-sharpening a Celt when its
working edge get damaged. This technique is often associated with Neolithic
farming communities in Southeast Asia, Europe, and North Africa, but it can be
found also among aboriginal hunter-gatherer communities of Australia.
3.8 BASIC FLAKE TOOL MAKING
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:
3.8.1 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.
Archaeological Units 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.
3.8.3 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.
Neanderthals were primitive humans and are the Mousterian toolmakers.
Massive skeleton and teeth, flat foreheads and heavy brow
ridges were the characteristic features of Neanderthals. The Mousterian
tool habit gets its name from artifacts discovered at a ancient rock shelter
named Le Moustier in south western France.
3.8.4 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
HOUSEHOLD AND DECORATIVE
4.2 Household/Shelter of Prehistoric Man
4.3 Household Objects
126.96.36.199 Cutting and Piercing Tools
188.8.131.52 Grinding Implements
184.108.40.206.1 Grinder, Muller, Pounder, Pestles, Saddle Querns, MaceHeads,
4.3.2 Artefacts on Perishable Materials: Wood and Bone
4.4 Baskets, Earthenware and Potter’s Wheel
4.5 Harnessing of Fire and Flint Box
4.6 Dress and Ornaments
Once you have studied this unit, you should be able to:
Ø identify the different types of household and decorative objects;
Ø understand the function of these objects;
Ø understand methods of use to study the relationship between people and
Ø understand the evolution of different household objects from prehistoric
Man is a tool-making animal. Tools made by man to harness the existing
environment around him for better survival. Every man either primitive or modern
needs material equipment. The tools are made on various materials available in
nature. With the tools man harnesses natural resources for his survival. Material
culture is a vital component of human subsistence. The fundamental necessities
of man to have his existence on this earth are food, shelter and clothing. The
study of material culture of people is of great importance because they throw
light on values of the artefacts and on the nature of invention and on the patter of
diffusion of inventions and ideas. The artefacts have great importance for their
relations to the whole economic and social organisation and to religious and
other ceremonial practices.
Material culture means all the objects used or made by man for his survival or
for supporting and improving his life. A home used to be a bustling centre of
This unit can also be read as Shelter and Material Objects.
Archaeological Units economic activity. Utensils for making daily requirements like food, clothing
and many other simple things were found in the home and abode of man.
Household activities for different purposes may be categorised as follows.
4.2 HOUSEHOLD/SHELTER OF PREHISTORIC MAN
Household of early man depended on the nature of shelter or accommodation.
Type of habitation differed according to the local climatic condition. In a warmer
climate early men lived in open air. He needed shelter in cold and rainy weather.
Caves were not convenient for habitation because a cave was dark, damp and
den of carnivorous animals. Men could only venture into the cave when he learnt
to use fire. With fire he could see what is inside the cave, could drive out other
occupants of the cave. Prior to the discovery of use of fire most of the bones of
early men recovered from the cave are proved to be of those who were prey to
carnivores. This has very well proved with evidences from South Africa. Towards
the end of Pleistocene times, man conveniently chose to live inside natural housing
facilities like caves and rock shelters. Early man was nomadic. He selected natural
shelters at different times at different locations. ‘The Great Ice Age’ during the
Pleistocene period made the climate of temperate Europe severely cold and
therefore prehistoric man lived inside caves and rock shelters comfortably, only
after he discovered the use of fire. You can very well imagine the predicament of
early men in bad weathers. However, even as early as Lower Palaeolithic times
men could raise a kind of wind break and get shelter from inclement weather.
Such evidence is found at an Acheulian site in Bihar, India (Pant and Jayswal,
Cutting and Piercing
Preparing and serving food and drink
Tying things together, string, ropes, cords
Household and Decorative
With the advent of Holocene age when climate became warm and humid, and it
made the man to live in open environment under the direct impact of sunlight
and the dark and the moonlit night under the star laden sky. We could see
emergence of new thoughts and ideas towards the end of Pleistocene with
considerable cultural developments. With new climatic situation during Holocene,
man gathered enormous wealth of knowledge about nature and identified
cultivable cereals and started to have some kind of sedentary existence. Instead
of migrating from place to place they made some kind of shelter to live in.
4.3 HOUSEHOLD OBJECTS
World of the material objects of prehistoric man is certainly too difficult to
estimate. Early man used all sorts of material objects available in his surroundings
either out of curiosity or for using them to defend him from predators, for food
getting and for making shelter. Culture can be divided into two parts, tangible
and intangible. Tangible part of the culture is also known as material culture
because it consists of materials which can be seen, touched and felt and are used
by man for his subsistence. You cannot see or touch the intangible part of the
culture but can only feel its existence. This part consists of social behaviour,
social organisation, ideas, beliefs and customs. There may be some material
representation of them, such as, you may see an idol but the faith and belief
connected with is intangible. Upper Palaeolithic men produced art. This has a
material existence but you can only imagine the purpose and idea behind such
production. Any piece of identifiable objects of prehistoric past irrespective of
its material and spiritual affiliation is an essential part of ‘Culture’.
Household articles on the basis of their activity may be categorised into:
Cutting and Piercing, Storing, Preparing and serving food and drink,
Making fire, Tying things together (string, ropes, cords), Making clothes
Any kind of material object made of any kind of raw material, which the early
man either made or used is called an ‘artefact’ or a ‘tool’ or an ‘implement’. Of
all the tools made by man mostly stone tools survived the devastation of time.
220.127.116.11 Cutting and Piercing Tools
The tools for cutting and cleaving are among the most early tools invented by
mankind. If at first they were only used for butchering animals, they become
more varied as people began to make clothes, build shelters and gather
possessions. Cutting tools presume primary importance over others because of
its efficiency. With these man can exploits its environment and make other tools
and devices. Cutting tools may be classified in three major ways: by their function
or use, by the material of which they are made and by the techniques used to
In terms of the function and use the cutting tools can be broadly categorised into
five groups, namely, Choppers, knives, chisels or gravers, scrapers and borers.
Tool types of prehistoric period are usually studied in several ways; first by
studying the stone tools, secondly by trying to imitate their function today, thirdly
by observing primitive people in a comparable cultural set up making similar
Archaeological Units tools and using them. For example a stone blade of upper Palaeolithic period
looks similar to a safety razor blade of present day.
Chopper and Chopping tool: These tools are usually round or semi oval with
an almost straight cutting edge. The edge is formed by removal of flakes from
only the upper surface of the implement or from both the surfaces of the tools.
The cutting edge may either be along the side or across the end of the specimen.
These tools could have been used for chopping of meat, blocks of wood etc.
These are quite heavy and large. This forms a characteristic feature of earliest
tools of Palaeolithic culture.
Hand axe: The handaxes are found in various shapes, such as, pear, almond,
heart. Also oval or lance like shape. Hand axes are known as multipurpose tools
because many works, such as, cutting, scraping, digging and boring could be
done with a single tool.
Cleavers: The cleavers are characterised by a broad, transverse cutting edge. It
looks like a modern axe head. The tool was probably used for cleaving and
Scraper: As the name indicates the scrapers are used for scraping such objects
as bark of trees, dressing of thin wooden or bamboo shaft and skin of animals as
well as for various other purposes. According to the shape of a particular piece
and the location and nature of scraping edge the tool is named as Side scraper,
End Scraper, Round Scraper, Concave Scraper, Convex Scraper. Scrapers were
predominant tool type of Palaeolithic period mainly in Middle Palaeolithic and
continued for a longer time period till today in different raw materials.
Blade tools: The blade is a narrow or slender parallel sided flake and its length
is at least twice its breadth. Special tool types made from blade are the blunted
backed blade, the knives with one blunted edge. These were used for cutting
foodstuffs, for carving wood and bone in households.
Some other tools: The burin or graver primarily used for engraving and for
making slots in wood and bone, the notched blades were used in the same way as
the contemporary spoke shaves, the borer or awl probably used to make holes.
Occasionally things had to be stitched together and awls were used to make
holes through materials. The blades with one or both ends sharpened were for
Microliths of Mesolithic period were prepared from blades and used as composite
tools after hafting in a shaft. Micro-blades were hafted on shafts and were used
as ‘harvesting knives’ or ‘sickles’.
The most commonly available tools of early man were primarily made by
percussion technique on rocks comprising igneous, metamorphic and indurated
sedimentary rocks. Flint was used in Europe and quartzite was used in Africa
and India. Quartz, chart, chalcedony, agate, jasper and number of precious and
semi-precious rocks were selected for the purpose of making a tool whether it is
a core tool or a flake tool, or the microliths or the Celts. Metallic tools appear at
Sharp edges of cutting tools became blunt for repeated use. Stone knives and
axes were generally not ground but knapped. Re-sharpening consisted in hitting
the blade near its cutting edge, flaking off small slivers of stone and leaving
behind sharp ridge.
Metal blades were sharpened by whetting them with a smooth stone, dents were
removed by hammering. The edges of the tools were hardened by annealing, that
is, heating the tools and letting them cool slowly and hammering.
18.104.22.168 Grinding Implements
In the natural world, there are resources which may be used for everyday life
directly or after some comparatively simple preparation process. Earliest humans
hunted various kinds of animals and gathered edible fruits, nuts, tubers etc.
Grinding implements used to play very important role in the first step of the food
preparation process. It is an interesting fact that almost all the ancient grinding
implements devised by humans throughout the history have continued to be used
domestically even after the advent of more efficient and specialised ones. The
most important achievement of use of grinders was the increase in human food
supply. Many wild grass seeds which had been inedible in their raw state became
edible by grinding. Cereals, especially wheat, barley, rice, millet required some
tedious processing, such as, threshing, hulling or milling. In course of time, the
earliest primitive grinding implement was gradually improved, enlarged and
specialised for each purpose.
22.214.171.124.1 Grinder, Muller, Pounder, Pestles, Saddle Querns, MaceHeads,
Though you may say that there is no clear evidence to tell us what sort of
implements were tried, we can easily imagine that man would take one of the
following three possible ways according to the characteristics of the grains he
• Pounding which would lead to a mortar and pestle and later to a stamp mill.
• Rolling which would lead to an edge-runner.
• Rubbing which would lead to a rubbing stone, a saddle quern, and later a
Different courses of development of implem
Fig. 4.8: Muller
ii) Mortar and Pestle
The earliest grinding implements found from the remains of the Prehistoric era
consisted of a roundish stone which was held in the hands and a larger hollowed
stone for a bed stone. The hollowness is necessary for efficient impaction and to
prevent grain from falling off the stone. Husks of the grains are hulled. The
grains are further ground and powdered on a mortar with the help of a pestle.
Fig. 4.9: Mortar and pastle
iii) Saddle Quern
Saddle Querns or Mill-stone is a comparatively large, roughly square or
rectangular stone slabs with flattish or concave surfaces. These began to appear
along with ground stone tools. Since its flat surface have smoothed and or
hollowed out, it is supposed that they were used by men for crushing, grinding
or milling grains. There are three types of Querns.
a) Querns with circular grinding surface brought about by round ball like
hammer stone or mullers.
b) Querns showing up and down grinding surface with plano- convex mullers.
c) Querns exhibiting both these features.
A large number of stone querns have been found both at Mohenjodaro and
Harappa for grinding cereals. All these are saddle querns and no specimen of any
revolving quern has been found. The two main types were those on which another
stone was pushed or rolled to and fro and the others in which a second stone was
used as pounder.
Household and Decorative
Fig. 4.10: Saddle quern
iv) Rotary Quern
The rotary quern, consisting of two circular stone discs was the beginning of a
new era in grinding technology. Various evidences of fragmented pieces of rotary
querns are found from all over Europe, especially Rome, South-East Asia (Taxila,
600B.C.-500A.D) and China.
Fig. 4.11: Rotary quern
v) Mace head
These are of various shapes but with a drilled hole in the centre. This hole is
meant for fixing the wooden haft through it. This is a kind of pounder. This is
mostly found in Neolithic culture and is made of polished stone. Some mace
heads are found in Mesolithic culture of Europe but those are rough and crude.
Fig. 4.12: Mace head
vi) Stone tablet
Small stone tablets also have been found from archaeological sites. On one or
both flat sides were gracefully composed stylized zoo morphs or curvilinear
geometric designs in deep relief. Paint has been found on some tablets, leading
archaeologists to propose that these stone tablets were probably used to stamp
designs on cloth or animal hides, or onto their own bodies. These are usually
found in the habitation sites of prehistoric man. Some stone tablets found from
Upper Palaeolithic caves in Europe could be an artist’s sketch pad could be a
tablet for writing as is found from the middle east with cuneiform writings.
4.3.2 Artefacts on Perishable Materials: Wood and Bone
You must have seen that many of our present day artefacts are made of perishable
materials like wood and bone. In India and other parts of Asia bamboo is used
for a large number of purposes. If you go to the villages and other rural areas you
will find that bamboo and wood are used for making houses, furniture and even
utensils. This is also found in the cities. We can very well say that bamboo and
Archaeological Units wood were profusely used in making tools and utensils. Chopper, a heavy duty
tool and scraper were used for making tools from bamboo and wood.
Tools made of bone, animal teeth, antler and ivory appear during the Upper
Palaeolithic times. These are fashioned in the form of Baton-de-commandement,
lance points, dart thrower, spear thrower, needle, harpoons and fish hooks. These
implements a played major role in the subsistence economy of the people.
Fig. 4.13: Ivory ladles
4.4 BASKETS, EARTHENWARE AND POTTER’S
Can you imagine life without a container? Containers function everywhere as
means of transporting and storing food, artefacts and other material possessions.
In addition containers are widely used in cooking and particularly in boiling of
both liquids and solid food. It is also used for preserving food.
Early man at the very beginning of its evolution was very much like its primate
ancestors who were foragers, meaning, they ate whatever and whenever they
found anything edible, in the same way as the modern monkeys and apes do.
They did not carry food item in a storing device. However, the evolved man is
endowed with a foresight. He may collect his food item for sharing with others
or may be storing for future consumption. For keeping food and other essential
items probably they used leaves, barks of trees, shell etc. which were found in
nature. Similar uses of natural objects are still found today. Perhaps he made
basket like objects for keeping his things or could have dug a hole in the ground.
There are evidences for such thing from various parts of the world. Earth lined
baskets dug in the ground for storage of grains is known as silos and is found in
many Neolithic sites. In Neolithic Egypt grains was stored in the habitation
compounds in silo pits and mud-coated baskets. Gradually man learned to make
container from clay. We call them pots. First evidence of pottery comes from
The possession of pottery not only makes the storage and transportation of liquid
easier, it can also be used for the storage of small grains, seeds and other materials.
Pottery is also used as pipes, ornaments, ladles, lamps and for serving foods.
Household and Decorative
Sometimes potteries are used for burial. Spoons have been used for eating with
since very early times. It is most likely that prehistoric people used shells or
chips of wood as spoons.
Knowledge of making earthenware in large quantity is assigned to the Neolithic
man who made pots from clay. Initially pots were made by hand and it served the
purpose of a container. Potter’s wheel was subsequently invented and wheel
made earthenware were designed. The potter’s wheel later revolutionised the
archaic technology and industrial movement during prehistoric and modern times.
No form of machinery including the locomotives is possible to move without a
wheel and the principle of rotary motion.
Fig. 4.14: Neolithic Basket
Fig. 4.15: Neolithic Pottery
Fig. 4.16: Indus Pottery
Archaeological Units 4.5 HARNESSING OF FIRE AND FLINT BOX
The use of fire is almost as old as human life. Before actually making fire, man
tamed fire by harnessing it. That means by learning to control it. Like any other
animal he must have been afraid of fire but then he used the natural fire and kept
it burning by feeding fuel to it. Fire making came later. Possibly man used fire
against attack of animals at night. With the discovery of fire they could venture
into the caves and live there. Homo erectus pekinensis in China used fire. Fire is
mainly used to make foods edible by cooking and in cold areas for warming up
the body. Dried up branches, dried dung and later charcoal was used as fuel.
Man could discover that at the stroke of a stone against another, fire could be
produced from the spark and is called percussion method. Man practiced it to
generate fire as one of the earliest methods of producing fire. In another procedure
called fire drill, one wooden stick vertically twirled on another stick placed
horizontally produces spark which is captured in dried grasses and leaves. In
another method known as bow drill in which, a wooden bow the string of which
was wound tightly around a spike. With a hollowed out drill cap made of stone
or a nut shell the spike was pressed against the fire stick and the bow was rotated
back and forth to produce fire. Later on modern primitive communities began to
carry a flint box that contained ‘a piece of iron’, another ‘piece of hard igneous
rock’ with some amount of ‘cotton’ similar to the safety match box of modern
Fig. 4.17: Bow Drill and hand Drill
4.6 DRESS AND ORNAMENTS
As a result of physical evolution, man lost the furry body coat similar to that of
Primate. Although human bodily hair is not less than those of the apes, it does
not provide a furry coat to protect him from cold. Consequently, there was a
need for clothing in the form of dress.
The origin of clothing is obscure. A kind of robe or a cloak made from the skin of
large animals was the first to be used by man during Mousterian Culture; however
it did not survive in archaeological ruins. Mousterian man lived in Europe during
part of Wurm glaciation around 200,000 to 30,000 BC.
Evidence of clothing in Upper Palaeolithic period is supported by the appearance
of first eyed bone needle. Needles that originated in the Solutrean culture in France
from 19,000-15,000 BC, prominently occur in the later part of Solutrean and in
entire Magdalenian culture.
Household and Decorative
Spinning and weaving is an innovation of Neolithic period. At the Neolithic
‘Swiss-Lake dwellings’ in Switzerland, evidence of ‘Spinning and Weaving’ came
forth with the existence of spindle whorls. The earliest known woven textiles
that came from the Near East is from the fabrics used for wrapping the dead
bodies. Presence of spindle whorls at archaeological excavations suggest textile.
Early Egyptians cultivated flax for making garments.
The inhabitants of the Indus Valley Civilization used cotton for clothing as early
as the 5th millennium BC to 4th millennium BC. Yarn for weaving came from
cultivated flax and from animals like sheep.
Fig. 4.18. Spindle, whorl and bone needle
The Upper Palaeolithic men decorated their bodies with different kinds of
ornaments like necklace, perforated teeth, beads and shell and mollusc.
Evidence for the use of beads ranges between 33,000 to 45,000 years BP in Later
Stone Age in South Africa. Even Neanderthals are known to have made and used
Prehistoric beads were made of softer materials like sea shell, egg shell, bone,
ivory, teeth, clay, stone, shale, etc. Even pine nuts, fruit pits and seeds were used
as beads. Hard materials like jade were also used in early culture.
As in most ancient civilizations, women of the Harappan civilization decorated
themselves with jewellery and probably men also did likewise. Rich people wore
ornaments of gold, silver and precious stones. The middle classes used ornaments
made of copper, bronze, shell, bones and the poor ones of terracotta and pottery
made of copper, bronze, shell, bones and terracotta. A large number of beads of
different sizes and shapes and materials have been recovered from almost all the
sites of the Harappan civilization. These are mainly steatite and stone beads.
Steatite beads are very hard and almost all these beads are white in colour. Majority
of these beads were glazed either blue or green. Next to steatite the largest number
of beads is made of silicate stones of transparent and opaque varieties. The
transparent silicate stones being colourless quartz or rock crystal, amethyst, yellow
quartz or smokey quartz and the opaque ones being agate, carnelian, chalcedony,
chert etc. The opaque varieties of beads and particularly those of agate are by far
Fig. 4.19: Jewellery of Mohejodaro
Fig. 4.20: Beads of Harappa
The mirrors of Harappan people are not made of glass but of bronze. They are
slightly oval in shape. One of them has the edges of the face raised by 0.17 inch
and the polish has completely disappeared. Their handles are rectangular with a
hole at the end and it looks the handle were encased in wood. These mirrors are
heavy. Such metallic mirrors were used in early Egypt and Sumer. They are
either round or elliptical but not oval.
Faience was used in many countries such as India, Crete, Mesopotamia and China.
It appears that Harappan Faience worker manufactured this material out of the
paste of quartz-sand mixed with lime and a bit of soda. This paste was put under
pressure in moulds of different shapes and moulded objects were dried in the
sun. After glazing with sand, soda, borax or lime different coloured faience were
produced. Mainly blue coloured faience were used as beads. Besides beads other
personal ornaments made out of faience were bangles, rings, amulets, ear-stud,
pedants and button.
Household and Decorative
Fig. 4.21: Fayence bracelet from Harappa
Many of the terracotta bangles were originally painted with black or red
designs. Terracotta bangles include incised and painted pattern. Terracotta bangles
are and were the most sought jewels. Even during the ancient Indus civilizations,
terracotta bangles were made and were painted in black and red. In those times
people have used them in multitudes, in the same way as the glass bangles of
today. Terracotta bangles make a sort of jingling sound as that of glass or metal
bangles and are very attractive. Harappan stoneware bangles and high-quality
ceramic ornaments are unparalleled in ancient as well as modern world. Stone
bangles were unglazed with bright red and pinkish to grey-black colour.
Fig. 4.22: Terracotta bangles of Harappa
The most common shell object at most of the major Harappan sites is represented
by shell bangles. These bangles were produced from T. Pyrum, the conch shells.
Bangles were prepared with the use of a variety of specialised and unspecialised
tools. Most of the finished bangles were perhaps incised with a motif in the form
of chevron ‘V’.
Copper and bronze bangles have been found from Harappa and Mohenjodaro.
The bangles were made from a round hammered rod bent in a full circle. The
Archaeological Units space between the ends of the bangle would be pried apart to slip it over the
wrist. Brass bangles also have been discovered from Chalcolithic culture of Orissa.
Ropes and cords
There are some ropes and cords for stringing beads and tying them around their
wrists or hung as amulets around their necks. They wrapped their possessions in
a piece of cloth and tied it into a bundle. The raw materials for these strings and
cords were animal and plant fibres, rawhide, and leather. Fibres were spun into
threads, some as fine as measuring a third of a millimetre, and two or more
strands were twisted into string. Flax, palm fibre, rush, papyrus, and various
grasses were used for making coarse ropes. Two-strand ropes were sometimes
doubled and redoubled, resulting in thick rope of eight strands. For making nets
they had netting needles, made of wood, bronze or any other suitable material.
Brooms and cloths were used to clean houses.