An Experimental Approach to Degrees of Rounding Among Lithic Artifacts

Abstract

Many Paleolithic lithic collections are found in contexts where post-depositional alterations, such as those made by water streams or sedimentary displacement, have affected the surface of most of the lithic artifacts. A major alteration often observed is the rounding of lithic artifacts. Although there have been some proposals on how to classify degrees of rounding—usually by employing naked eye classifications to determine degrees of rounding—there is a lack of consensus among lithic analysts. The aim of this study is to define and characterize degrees of rounding among lithic artifacts. This characterization also takes into consideration the differential development of alterations and rounding stages, depending on the raw materials. Here, an experimental program has been developed along with supplementary archaeological analysis to define and characterize degrees of rounding. Degrees of rounding are characterized according to three criteria: surface alteration, edge alteration, and width of the ridges. A preliminary characterization and proposal of degrees of rounding is presented. This characterization also takes into consideration the raw materials and the sensibility and resolution of the criteria to establish degrees of rounding. Results show how, after microscopic analysis, lithic artifacts that appear fresh to the naked present different degrees of rounding. The conclusions explain that, although rounding is continuous process, it is possible to establish degrees of rounding, a main initial goal for any lithic analyst.

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Acknowledgments

The authors wish to thank the co-editor and the three anonymous reviewers for their invaluable comments and suggestions. This article is the result of the research project HAR2016-76760-C3-2-P “¿COMO, QUIEN Y DONDE?: VARIABILIDAD DE COMPORTAMIENTOS EN LA CAPTACION Y TRANSFORMACION DE LOS RECURSOS LITICOS DENTRO DE GRUPOS NEANDERTALES 2” financed by Agencia Estatal de Investigación (AEI) and Fondo Europeo de Desarrollo Regional (FEDER). The development of the experiment and analysis and of the materials were undertaken at the Laboratory of Experimental Archaeology (UAM). We are thankful to Concepción Torres for her advice and suggestions. The authors would also like to thank Scribendi Company for the grammatical revision of the English manuscript.

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Correspondence to Guillermo Bustos-Pérez.

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Bustos-Pérez, G., Díaz, S. & Baena, J. An Experimental Approach to Degrees of Rounding Among Lithic Artifacts. J Archaeol Method Theory 26, 1243–1275 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10816-018-9409-8

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Keywords

  • Experimental archaeology
  • Rounding
  • Post-depositional damage
  • Lithic analysis