Studying LithicEconomies in the New Millennium

66th Annual Meeting of the Society for AmericanArchaeology
Saturday, April 21, 2001 beginning at 8am
New Orleans, Louisiana



Gregory Bondar
Penn State University, Department of Anthropology
ghb1 at

Philip LaPorta
CUNY Graduate Center





Abstract: Lithic materials dominate assemblages of humanmaterial culture for most of prehistory. Yet, the acquisition and distributionof these materials, among the most important prehistoric phenomena, remainamong the least understood. Fortunately, in recent years, there has beena dramatic increase in interest focused on quarries, lithic and quarrytechnologies, raw material analysis, and economic studies pertaining tolithic raw materials. This session will feature an inter-regional sharingand synthesis of expertise and experience ranging from excavations andanalyses of quarry sites and techniques, to the use of geochemical sourcingto examine the trade and exchange of these materials.




1) Lithic Sourcing and Late Prehistoric Plains-Midwest Migration

Lauren W. Ritterbush,Department of Sociology, Anthropology, and Social Work, Kansas State University

Abstract: The Late Prehistoric period of the American Plains and Midwestwas a dynamic period involving movement of populations within and betweenthese regions. Out of these shifting populations emerged reformed culturaladaptations. Recent research at Oneota sites in the Central Plains andalong the Plains-Midwest boundary has raised interesting questions regardingpermanent and seasonal migration. Lithic sourcing, in combination withother analyses, is used to identify movement and evaluate its permanence.


2) Results of EDXRF Analysis of Materials from Two Prehistoric QuarriesNear Socorro, New Mexico

Robert D. Dello-Russo,Escondida Research Group

Abstract: Recent research has demonstrated that energy-dispersive X-rayfluorescence analysis can be used to successfully identify trace elementvariations in geologic sources of obsidians.While the raw material availableat the Black Canyon and Sedillo Hill quarry sites near Socorro, New Mexicohave, in the past, been described as cherts or jaspers, geological indicationssuggest that they could more appropriately be classified as silicifiedrhyolites. The results of the EDXRF analysis of samples from these sitesare reported.


3) Debitage Analysis of Milling-implement Production at AntelopeHill Quarry, Lower Gila River, Arizona

JoanS. Schneider, Western Center for Archaeology and Paleontology/UC Riverside

Gabrielle Duff, Statistical Research, Inc.

Abstract: Debitage analysis of segregated production loci at AntelopeHill, an extremely large milling-implement quarry of arkosic sandstonein southwestern Arizona, has documented that multiple episodes of productionoccurred at each locus. Furthermore, the stage-of-production debitage analysisappears to support the hypothesis that preliminary stages of productionwere carried out near quarry fronts and that intermediate and later stagesof production were carried out at level work areas and preferentially atthe base of the hill. We hypothesize that success:failure rates of attemptsat milling-implement production were about 35%:65%. The area of distributionof tools made at this quarry includes southern Arizona, southeastern California,and northern Baja California. This paper explains our approach to the lithicanalysis and the potential application of the methods at other milling-implementquarries.


4) Lithic Source Use and Foraging Patterns in the Great Basin Paleoarchaic

Charlotte Beck, George T.Jones, Dept of Anthropology, Hamilton College

Abstract: In their transversal of large subsistence territories, theearliest occupants of the Great Basin, who we refer to as Paleoarchaicpeoples, foraged over large territories, upwards of 400 km from north tosouth. In their movements these early peoples encountered numerous lithicsources from which they manufactured tools. As we demonstrate in this paper,the representation of different raw material types reflects both mobilitypatterns and changes in those patterns through time, as well as selectionfor functional qualities of each material type. Further, the changes insource representation over a 4000-year period, from late Pleistocene tothe mid-Holocene, suggests changes in Paleoarchaic foraging patterns overthis period.


5) The Characterization of Obsidian from Pantelleria (Italy): TheArchaeological Significance of Multiple Island Sources

Barbara A. Vargo, RobertH. Tykot & Julie Bliss, University of South Florida

Valentina Colella & Maurizio Tosi, Universitàdi Bologna

Sebastiano Tusa, Soprintendenza ai Beni Culturalie Ambientali di Trapani

Abstract: The study of prehistoric obsidian sources is fundamentalto understanding socioeconomic interactions among Neolithic communitiesin the central Mediterranean. Geoarchaeological surveys of Pantelleriahave located obsidian in situ in the interior of the island, in exposedlayers on cliff-faces, and along the southern shoreline. Geochemical sourcecharacterization and the analysis of archaeological artifacts allow usto identify which flows were exploited. This research establishes the valueof detailed obsidian characterization studies for the interpretation ofprehistoric socioeconomic patterns. Our results clarify the nature of Neolithicinteractions in the south-central Mediterranean and serve as a model forsimilar studies elsewhere.


6) Lithic Resources of the Dakhleh Oasis Region, Western Desertof Egypt

A.L. Hawkins, University of Toronto

M.R. Kleindienst, University of Toronto at Mississauga

Abstract: Prehistoric archaeological survey of the Dakhleh Oasis region,Western Desert, Egypt, conducted since 1978, has included study of lithicraw materials utilized in both the Pleistocene and Holocene cultural stratigraphicunits. Bedrock formations (sandstones exposed in the southern Lowland andthe surrounding desert, shales in the central Lowland and on the LibyanPlateau Escarpment to the north, and limestones capping the Escarpment)provide a variety of lithic raw materials, also found redeposited intogravels and lags. Local resources were differentially used at differenttimes and localities during the Pleistocene, while imported raw materialsoccur in quantity only after the mid-Holocene. Here, we discuss the evidencefor two Middle Stone Age (MSA) units, the older generalized MSA TeneidaUnit and the later MSA Dakhleh Unit (Aterian Technocomplex), in terms ofthe economies of usage and patterns of human preference.


7) Discussant - RobertTykot, Department of Anthropology, University of South Florida


8) A Perspective on the New England-Maritimes Paleoindian Regionfrom the Neal Garrison Site

DougKellog, John Milner Associates, Inc.

StephenPollock, University of Southern Maine

Abstract: A defining characteristic of the New England-Maritimes PaleoindianRegion is the use of certain lithic resources available within the region.Recent excavations at the Neal Garrison Paleoindian site in extreme southernMaine revealed the almost exclusive use of Munsungun-type chert known tooccur over 300 kilometers overland to the north. Comparisons with othersites in Maine shows an almost mutually exclusive use of either Munsungun-typechert or Mt. Jasper-type rhyolite from northern New Hampshire. This patternsupports the concept of a distinct Paleoindian cultural region, but alsosuggests smaller-scale cultural and social relationships within the region.


9) The Mashantucket Petrographic Thin-Section Library Project

Brian D. Jones,Mashantucket Pequot Museum and Research Center

Patricia Coombs, University of Connecticut

Abstract: The Archaeology Department of the Pequot Museum and ResearchCenter has begun to assemble a petrographic thin-section reference library.The library consists of stone materials recovered from sites excavatedover the past fifteen years on the Mashantucket Pequot Reservation, aswell as samples from a number of regional quarry locations. The goals ofthe thin-section library effort are threefold. First is to identify lithicraw materials used at Mashantucket; second is to identify potential sourcesof rock types found; and third is to assess diachronic changes in lithicmaterial use at Mashantucket and explain this within the framework of dynamicprehistoric social and settlement systems. Initial results of the project,including numerous thin-section micrographs, have been made available tothe public at the Northeast Lithic Database (NELD) web site.


10) Intra-site Artifact Patterning, Lithic Reduction Strategiesand Settlement Patterns at the Snaggy Ridge, South Mountain MetarhyoliteQuarries.

Kurt W. Carr,Bureau for Historic Preservation, Pennsylvania Historical & MuseumCommission

Abstract: Metarhyolite from the South Mountain region of Pennsylvaniaand Maryland has been used by Native Americans since Paleoindian timesand studied by archaeologists since the 1890's. This presentation willdescribe the investigations of the Snaggy Ridge/Carbaugh Run region ofthese quarries. This report includes the results of mapping different typesof sites associated with this outcrop, profiles of several quarry pits,experimental knapping of the metarhyolite and the results of one of thefew, controlled test excavations conducted at a prehistoric metarhyolitequarry pit in the region. It would appear that surfacial outcrops werenot suitable for use by Native flint knappers and mining excavations werethe only alternative. There are differences in the horizontal distributionof artifacts suggesting different types of reduction activities. The diagnosticprojectile points recovered from this excavation and radiocarbon dateshave implications concerning the use of these Native American excavations.


11) Prehistoric Quarries in the Washington, DC Metropolitan Area

Elizabeth A. Crowell,Parsons Engineering Science

Abstract: During the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries,William Henry Holmes and avocational archaeologists associated with theAnthropological Society of Washington discovered several prehistoric quarriesin Washington, DC and vicinity. These sites represented quartzite, quartzand steatite quarries. In some instances, the quarry locations were merelyidentified; in other cases, excavation occurred at the quarries. Artifactsassociated with some of these sites are present in the collections of theSmithsonian Institution. Some of these site locations are extant. Otherswere destroyed by subsequent development. This paper will discuss the quarriesand their relationship to archaeological sites in the Nation’s Capital.


12) Metarhyoliteuse during the Transitional Archaic in Eastern North America

Gregory Bondar, Departmentof Anthropology, Penn State University

Abstract: Throughout the prehistory of eastern North America,metarhyolite served as an important lithic material. The use of this materialincreased dramatically with the intensification of trade relationshipsduring the Late and Transitional Archaic periods. This paper will reportthe current results of an extensive inter-regional research project studyingmetarhyolite sources and the archaeological distribution from the Southeastand Mid-Atlantic regions. In particular, geochemical characterization byneutron activation analysis will be used to trace metarhyolite artifactsfrom the Transitional Archaic period to their geologic sources to identifylong-distance routes of exchange and social interaction.


13) Prehistoric Quarries in the Blue Ridge and Ridge and Valleyof Virginia: Lithics at the Local Level

Michael B. Barber, GeorgeWashington and Jefferson National Forest

Abstract: The USDA-Forest Service has managed culturalresources within the George Washington & Jefferson National Forestsfor more than 20 years. Due to the mountainous nature of Forest Servicemanagement, most resources are procurement encampments of one sort or anotherwhether for subsistence or lithic exploitation. While certain resourcesare ubiquitous in nature, such as the Erwin/Antietam quartzites, othersincluding jasper, Mount Rogers rhyolite, and ferruginous quartzites arenot so widespread. Nor due these material appear to be sought after ona regional scale. As such, the distribution of these materials may lendinsight into settlement patterning, particularly during the Archaic period,as well as some indication of territorial parameters. 

This paper will use data based on Phase I surveys,Phase II evaluations, and the site form information housed at the VirginiaDepartment of Historic Resources. Using these sources of varied levelsof acuity, an overall prediction of material bounds, territory size, andregional scaling will be examined.


14) A Reevaluation of Quartz and Silicate Raw Material AcquisitionAlong the South Atlantic Slope: Going Beyond the Economics of Expediency

Lawrence Abbott,Chuck Cantley, New South Associates, Inc.

Scott Jones, University of Georgia

Abstract: The acquisition of quartz as a lithic raw material alongthe South Atlantic slope has been interpreted by many as a function ofexpediency. In addition, it has been generally accepted that most silicatesare “exotic” materials imported from unknown points elsewhere. Recent researchsuggests that in many cases quartz was not an expedientresource and manysilicates were locally acquired rather than imported. This paper will reviewthe information available on the acquisition of quartz and silicates alongthe South Atlantic Slope from southern Virginia to Georgia. Included willbe a discussion of the geologic processes involved in the formation ofthese raw materials and the implicatiojns regarding their functions withincertain prehistoric economies. Suggestions will be made regarding the naturaldistribution of these resources across the landscape and the prehistoricactivities associated with the location and use of these materials.


15) Discussant - PhilipLaPorta, CUNY Graduate Center