In this article we will discuss about:- 1. Earliest or Palaeolithic Techniques 2. Primary Fabrication Techniques 3. Compound Techniques 4. Polishing and Grinding 5. Palaeolithic Types 6. Mesolithic Types 7. Neolithic Types.

Man started his cultural career on a very adhoc attempt to obtain a sharp cutting edge. His loss of canines and powerful nails through evolution made it necessary to seek environmental help. Evidences show that the adhoc beginning had slowly taken a grip on him. He not only standardized working with a given raw material from his environment but slowly experimented with different raw materials.

Thus newer techniques had to be evolved at every stage. The need of a sharp edge was also being slowly replaced by a variety of other needs. The history of man’s cultural progression is basically a history of his technological progress. Cultural terms such as Stone Age, Copper age and Iron Age are also essentially attempts to divide cultural traits with a definable technological stage.

1. Earliest or Palaeolithic Techniques:

Man must have begun his experiment with his environment with wood as a raw material. This must have been the easiest retrievable raw material available in the form of branches of trees in the open forests but evidences of that stage are destroyed forever and hence cannot form a part of any archaeological investigation.


Stones are the other raw material which became quite useful to man. He found it so suitable for his needs that he continued using it for nearly a million years adding some ivory and antler only at the fag end of the period. Even after he developed techniques of metal retrieving he did not entirely give up his age old love for and habit of stone.

The techniques in which these stones have been shaped by him are usually reconstructed by controlled experiments by the archeologist himself. These experiments can result into a fuller understanding of some fabricating techniques. Here we can summarize some important features of stone technology.

When a given stone needs to be broken with another stone, the hammer stone needs to be bigger in mass than the piece to be broken. Further, choosing a harder raw material for this purpose can also serve the purpose. For instance, for flaking flint or quartzite, granite, basalt, dolorite or similar rocks used as hammer stones can be quite useful.

In case of non-availability of harder rocks the stone to be flaked can often be broken by dropping it on ground and then the smaller pieces picked up to shape into tools. When a piece of rock is chipped at convenient corners (flaking) and then used, the pieces of stones knocked off are waste flakes and the tool is a core tool.


When the reverse is the case, that is, when the piece of stone merely acts as the source of producing flakes and these flakes are further shaped (by retouchings) then the shaped pieces are called flake tools while the core is a waste. It is obvious that in the case of a core tool the length of sharp border obtained is extremely low in relation to the energy spent on it, whereas in case of a flake tool the same energy can produce 10 to 20 times more sharp borders.

Thus, in terms of efficiency a culture dominated by flake tools can be taken as more advanced than another containing only core tools. Identification of a flake tool cannot be done by mere size as there can be cores smaller than large flakes. Here archaeologists take the use of what is known as the positive bulb of percussion. It has been noted that when force enters a stone it imprints an elevated bulb on the inner surface of the flake right under the point where the hammer hits it.

The surface on which the hammer hits a stone is called the striking plat-form and the point on the platform, where the hammer hits, is called the bulbar scar or flake scar of detachment. The corresponding area on the core is called flake scar. This flake scar on the core maintains a deep point corresponding to the positive bulb and this is called the negative bulb of percussion.

Since a large flake can always become core in relation to the next flake removed from it, the usage of the terms core and flake becomes relative. Since relative terms are useless in scientific analysis, a flake in archaeology is decided to be any piece of stone which maintains a positive bulb of percussion no matter- (a) how small or big it is and also (b) no matter how many flakes may have been removed from this.


The surface of the stone which bears no evidence of human workmanship is called original cortex. Such a surface, in case of a pebble, is much more apparent than on chunks and boulders naturally derived from hills. Finally we need to introduce the term retouchings in a more specific way. Retouchings are medium to small sized chips removed in a contiguous manner along a border. These differ from flakings in only the purpose.

While flakings are aimed at removing stone material, that is, to thin out or obtain a slope, retouchings are aimed at regularizing a border or strengthening it. Any unworked stone flake has razorsharp borders but these borders are damaged easily. The angle formed by the two surfaces at a sharp natural border can be as low as 7°-10°. Retouching increases this angle to as much as 20°-30°. The difference of the functional edges in the above two cases is the same as a safety razor blade from a sturdy pocket knife.

2. Primary Fabrication Techniques:

(a) Direct Percussion:

This was the most common method adopted by prehistoric man. In this the stone hammer hits the stone in a swinging blow. Maximum amount of force enters the stone in a rather uncontrolled manner. It results in a great deal of shattering effect. The bulb is pronounced and has a fairly large outer circumference. Sometimes this technique is also referred to as free flaking technique.

(b) Block-On-Block:

In this technique the pebble or block of stone to be worked is struck against the projecting point of a large fixed stone or anvil. The bulbs produced in this kind of flaking can be really pronounced as the force with which the stone hits the anvil is supplemented by the natural weight of the rock.

The above methods have a risk of having no control over the fracture and hence can often defeat the purpose. The following controlled methods of stone fabrication were evolved to overcome this risk.

(c) Step or Resolved Flaking:

As the name signifies the flake scars produced by this technique are shaped like a step. Here the hammer directs the force inside the thicker part of the stone in contradistinction to force directed outwards in the case of free flaking technique. This restricts the force from travelling over the entire thickness of the stone and as such the force gets spent up after travelling halfway through.

As a result of this a crack develops on the surface of the stone along the periphery of the termination of the force. This results in a vertical cleavage on the surface as also a horizontal scar (when seen from top). It has a chiselling effect which enables cutting the borders without sacrificing the thickness.

(d) Cylinder Hammer or Hollow Hammer Technique:

Tools with unusually shallow and elongated flake scars were discovered in prehistoric debris. Dr Leakey after experimenting with many kinds of hammers declared that such flakings could only be affected by using a hollow bone or antler or a wooden hammer. On the face of it this method might appear to be improbable, but only experimentation can demonstrate how good flakes can be removed by this technique.

The greatest advantage of using these organic hammers is their property of absorbing the reaction of force – thus totally eliminating the shattering effect of impact. The bulb produced in this kind of scars is diffused and the flake scars have a more or less parallel running boundary ridge.

Besides the above two, there are two other controlled flaking techniques which are usually employed for finer tools.

Punching Technique:

It involves the use of an intermediate puncher which receives the blow on its top and transfers it to the core through the other end. Such a method has the advantage of controlling both the magnitude and direction of the force by manipulating the puncher by one hand while the force is being delivered by the other. The peckings in Neolithic celt preparation are done by this process. This method is quite useful in knocking off undesired corners or protruberances on a rock surface without the risk of undesired damage to the tool.

Pressure Flaking:

Some Palaeolithic tools like the upper Solutrean points carry fine shallow flakings on the surface and these were taken to have been produced by what is described as pressure flaking technique. In this technique the media (puncher) transmitting the force keeps in contact with the core during the process the force is in action.

This prevents radiation of the force waves in radial direction at the point of impact. (In most of the percussion techniques the hammer swings off after imparting the force on the core. Left to itself, the force, therefore, tends to radiate in the direction of the blow. The fan shaped flakes detached in free flaking technique are a good example to demonstrate this point). As a result, pressure flaking technique is quite suitable in the removal of elongated blades. Usually it is used for delicate retouchings but in blade manufacture it is one of the essential steps of fabrication.

3. Compound Techniques:

One or more of the above methods of primary fabrication of tools can be used to give rise to the combined methods. Here are some of the combined methods described.

i. Clactonian Flaking:

Strictly speaking this method is not a combined method but we list it here because it involves a special planning. This is the oldest flaking technique known from the British Lower Palaeolithic. The name is derived from the site Clacton-on-Sea in Essex. These flakes are known from all over Europe during various stages of Palaeolithic culture. These are essentially typified by a characteristic high flake angle and a general absence of secondary retouchings on them.

It is a common experience that to detach a flake from a pebble one has to strike a blow in an inclined manner. The angle of this direction of force with the pebble surface is therefore always less than 90° for obtaining a good sized flake. For removing a second flake from the same surface one requires increasing the angle of the blow. If this process is repeated a stage comes when the blow delivered is at right angles-and the core in this case, shatters in several pieces instead of giving a flake.

Hence this is known as the critical angle of percussion. The Clactonian technique eliminates this limitation of simple percussion technique. Here once a flake is removed from one surface this flaked surface is used as the striking platform to remove another fresh flake from the opposite surface. As a result the flake angle of each Clactonian flake comes out as more than 90°.

ii. Levallois Technique:

This technique is named after a site of this name in the suburb of Paris. It involves taking out of a number of flakes from one face of a nodule from all around its periphery in a centripetal manner as a first step. This prepared core resembles a tortoise shell and therefore is usually referred to as tortoise core.

Finally a calculated blow is delivered on the top of the shaped surface in such a manner that a flake comes out of this core. The detached flake carries the previous dressing on its dorsal surface. It is, therefore, taken to be a technique where a previous planning and shaping of a flake to be detached is perfected.

In other words this marks a technological development in prehistoric techniques which needs to be counted in the assessment of the characteristics of a given industry or culture. For long it has been emphasized that the diagnostic trait for the identification of a levallois flake is the occurrence of a faceted butt.

In reality there are many normal flakes known with faceted butts and also numerous levallois flakes known without any kind of faceting present at their butt ends. The only feature which goes to define a levallois flake is the occurrence of centrally directed flake scars on its dorsal surface.

Many or some of these dorsal surface flake scars do not have their points of impact on this flake (that is, the flake detached cuts a portion of the previous dressing from the tortoise core. Thus, most of the points of impact of these scars are retained on the core while the flake detached maintains only the distal ends of these scars).

Besides this, the butt end of a levallois flake is rarely known to have formed an angle of more than 90° with the axis of the flake scar. Levallois technique can be modified by choosing and shaping special cores and thus producing levallois points and levallois blades.

iii. Fluting:

The technique of Mesolithic blade production is broadly termed as fluting. This term literally means the semi-cylindrical vertical grooves in pillars. And since a fluted core resembles such pillars the technique is termed fluting. The technique involves the preparation of a core as the first step.

Here the usual percussion technique is used to transform any nodule or natural pebble into a prismatic shape. A striking platform is prepared at the end of the long axis of this prismatic core. The core is then held firmly on the ground and pressure is delivered from the edge of the striking platform.

The pressure can be applied by using a pointed bone, antler or even specially prepared wood. In what manner this process was executed will perhaps never be known, but archaeological evidences offer enough proof of a complete perfection of the technique having been mastered by the people, and also that these blades were removed in rapid succession.

The main points of distinction between Palaeolithic blades and Mesolithic blades are as follows:

(a) Palaeolithic blades produced by direct or indirect percussion always maintain a pronounced bulb of percussion. The platform is thick and often maintains a slight overhang. Ripples of force are seldom present near the bulb but never any fissures of force along the length of the scar.

(b) As contrast to the Upper Palaeolithic blades, the Mesolithic blades are smaller and produced by pressure flaking technique. Pressure being constantly in touch with the core, the bulb of percussion can never be pronounced. Usually it is as tiny as a pin-head. The platform in these blades need not be thick as the point of impact and direction of the force is totally under control. Finally, often these blades bear numerous ripples and fissures along their scar of detachment.

The identification of the fluting technique cannot be mainly based on these features as these are not always true for all kinds of raw materials. Hence the presence of the characteristic fluted cores alone can demonstrate the presence of this technique. In flint, for instance, it is demonstrated by actual experiments that pressure flaking cannot remove a blade more than 2 cm in length.

This has led many authorities to attempt results of pressure flaking variety by punching technique. Prof Francois Bordes has produced beautiful ‘laurel leaves’ -sometimes as big as 17 cm – by merely using punching technique. It is, however, true that none of these flake scars (produced by percussion) bears those numerous ripples of force that the original laurel leaves have.


The flaking techniques described above may have formed the main basis of tool fabrication for nearly one million years of our prehistoric past. The microlithic technique shares more or less the same features except that the main emphasis in this period shifts to blade manufacture by fluting.

These blades are basically different from Palaeolithic flakes in the fundamental feature of having too many built-in sharp borders. Therefore, retouching in this period mainly aims at blunting an already sharp border. This, as a technique, was evolved as early as 26 thousand years before the Microlith makers reemployed it.

In early Perigordian or Chatelperronean blunting of an available border by steep or abrupt retouchings was first evolved. In entire Upper Palaeolithic this technique survives in various degrees and by the time Mesolithic culture starts it is adopted as the predominant retouching technique. Microliths are found to occur from almost 10,000 B.P. and continue to occur well within Christian era in many countries.

These may or may not be found with later cultures (like Neolithic, Chalcolithic etc.) as well. These are not used individually as tools. These were mounted in multiple numbers on suitable shafts to be used as tools. Obviously the emphasis has been the lightness of the finished implement and this explains the preference for tiny shapes especially when compared with tools of the earlier cultures.

4. Polishing and Grinding:

Stone Age implements have all along been flaked and retouched in various techniques to suit a function. In the last of the stone ages, i.e., in Neolithic period an altogether different finishing technique is evolved. This is clearly demonstrative of an altogether new functional adaptation. All available evidences indicate that man had just evolved an agricultural economy and he had to clear a great deal of bushes and trees to obtain open cultivation land. The new techniques of grinding and polishing may have been result of this imperative.

To suit this change in the purpose and hence technique, the raw material of the Neolithic tools is also changed. Quartzite or flint is no longer found suitable. A much finer grained and harder igneous rock such as dyke basalt, dolerite and epidiorite become the most commonly favoured raw material. It would appear quite evident that the Neolithic people not only had gathered wide practical knowledge about various rocks and their properties but had skillfully quarried two or three different varieties of rocks to shape different tools.

That is, while chalcedony continued to be used to prepare microliths (to be used as composite tools) dolerite was mined out specially to prepare the heavy axes. Quartzite is also continued to be used but now mainly for making ring-stones or bolas. There are many Neolithic sites where all these varieties of raw materials and techniques occur together.

A stone axe in the Neolithic period is prepared by taking a normal chunk of this special rock and then flaking it with stone hammer to obtain the shape that has been planned. Often the original surfaces of the core are used to advantage in order to decide the shape. The nature of the stone is such that unlike the result of stone hammer technique on quartzite the flaking removes only small and shallow flakes.

Once the shape is achieved the intersection of all the scars or any other generalized undulations left on the surface is carefully knocked off with a pointed hammer. This process is called pecking. Finally the finished tool is rubbed over a rough stone surface with water thrown in. Usually the working border is ground but in many cases the entire body of the tool can also be ground.

Many authorities believe that some kind of fat may have been used during the final rubbing stage in order to give a polish to the finished type and hence the name grinding and polishing. Many Neolithic occupations have yielded large concave sand stone slabs with marks of deep grooves along the length. These finds further demonstrate the manner of execution of this technique.

Using fat to polish, however, seems very unlikely because rubbing is not effective with a film of fat which lessens friction. It is, therefore, quite likely that the actual technique consists of flaking, pecking and grinding only. The unusual polish seen in some Neolithic axes may have been developed by prolonged use of these axes.

Ring stones and bolas are the other examples of the use of friction put to maximum advantage by the Neolithic people. These heavy quartzite pieces have been given a smooth shape by skillful pecking and grinding and then a hole has been driven through this by devising a drilling technique.

Sometimes these holes can be as big as 8 cms in depth and 8 cms or even more in diameter. It is difficult to imagine how these holes were made unless we entertain the possibility of the use of a special drill with shell or choral stone inlay. That this kind of a drill could not have been operated by bare hands is also likely but to prove the existence of a bow-drill for this stage is also impossible. The holes in these ring- stones have an hour-glass cross-section and this can be taken to indicate that the hole was made from both the surfaces in order to meet at the centre.

Preparation of pottery with specially treated clay was another prehistoric innovation seen during the Neolithic period. Here we shall get to know some of the prehistoric types.

We have gone at length into the philosophy of types in prehistory. Therefore, it need be specially emphasized that the enunciated types are universal and any local variations observed can always be accommodated as a variant within a generalized definition of one of these types.

5. Palaeolithic Types:

Palaeolithic period has been mainly divided into Lower, Middle and Upper on the basis of certain predominant types.

We shall lay down the definition for these types below:

(i) Chopper:

These are core tools prepared by unifacial flaking of the terminal end. In some rare cases the flaking might extend over one of the surfaces but do not include the butt-end which is as a rule kept untouched. A chopper can have a U shape or even circular appearance and hence the working end can range from a straight and transverse border to almost a semi-circular border.

If the two terminals of the working border are joined by a straight line the maximum thickness of a chopper usually falls posterior to this line (towards the butt-end). If, however, the maximum thickness lies anterior to this line it is advisable to consider such a specimen as a flake core.

(ii) Chopping Tool:

It is merely a variation of the chopper with the only exception that here the flaking is done from both the surfaces. That is, the terminal flakings are alternately removed by altering the surface facing the worker. As a result of this the working end of a chopping tool is jagge or wavy as contrast to the sharp border of a chopper. Here also the shift of the maximum thickness towards the working border can be taken to include them as flake cores.

Both Chopper and Chopping tools are usually prepared by primary flakings alone. These are delivered by stone hammer with a swinging blow or using block-on-block technique. In some special cases some secondary flakings may also be present. But if over and above primary and secondary flakings there is evidence of contiguous retouchings along the border these should be considered as Core Scrapers.

(iii) Handaxe:

It is perhaps one of the earliest tool types identified in prehistory. The main distinguishing feature of this type is that it is extensively retouched on both the faces and hence the name Biface is also used for this type. It distinguishes itself from other bifacial implements in the fact that with a few exceptions (e.g., Ovate) it has a thicker and broader end called the butt end and opposite this occurs the narrower and thinner end called the working end, and the two surfaces and the lateral borders are so flaked as to meet at the working end.

By implication biface is a core tool, but if all these characters of a biface are satisfied in a given specimen and over and above this a small portion of the scar of detachment with its positive bulb of percussion is retained then such a specimen can be easily designated with a prefix qualifying the difference. That is, this specimen should be called a flake-handaxe.

On the basis of their shapes the handaxes can be classified into a dozen varieties. For instance the elongated types of handaxes include Lanceolate, Micoquian and Ficron. The medium size squat group includes Triangular, Sub-triangular and Cordiform. Similarly ovoid group with rounded working end includes Amygdaloid, Ovoid and Limande.

Besides these, there are some other types also identified but these are more or less area specific. Technologically and hence culturally these groups are not always associated. For instance, a lower Acheulian or Abbevillian handaxe can be Lanceolate or Ficron but seldom a Cordiform. Similarly an upper Acheulian can be Micoquian or Cordiform or Limande without any regard to the size.

It is, therefore, important to remember that these categories are morphological with some technological rider alone and it is not safe to consider any of these types as specific for a cultural stage. It may be, therefore, worthwhile to attempt at some cultural terms for the handaxe.

Abbevillian Handaxe:

These are the largest of all handaxes known in prehistory and often weigh as much as 2-4 lbs. Although bifacially worked, these handaxes have scooping deep scars which give rise to very sinuous lateral borders. There are rarely any secondary flakings done along the borders. Usually these specimens are not quite symmetrical.

Acheulian Handaxe:

These are smaller and more symmetrical in their dorsoventral contour. There are numerous secondary retouchings done and these are mainly concentrated around the lateral borders. Around middle Acheulian period cylinder hammer technique is profusedly used to execute the final shaping. In many upper Acheulian handaxes the sharp lateral border continues over the butt-end as well. A special shape of these handaxes is an Ovate which may have a twisted S or Z shaped lateral border.

(iv) Cleaver:

It is ordinarily a handaxe with a transverse working end. This transverse edge can be obtained by retouching from both the surfaces and also by skillfully designing the intersection of a sloping flat scar with another similar scar or a retouched or original surface on the opposite face.

The most common cleavers which come from Africa and India are made on thick medium sized flakes where the ventral surface has a single flake scar of detachment and the dorsal surface has a sloping scar towards the anterior end. Extensive flakings along both the lateral borders and the butt-end attempt to drive a suitable shape.

Since this flaking is alternately done, the tool has a characteristic parallelogram cross-section. According to the shape of the butt end cleavers can be classified as either U or V shaped. The working end, likewise, can be classified as transverse, left-oblique, right-oblique or divergent according to the position and nature of the bit.

Most of these four types of tools discussed here are generally heavy duty multipurpose tools. In their manipulation, a grip involving the palm of the hand is effective.

These are mostly found associated with the earliest group of human culture and hence they are taken as defining what will be called the Lower Palaeolithic Culture.

The following eight types, including their sub-types and also at times with a mixture of some of the earlier described types define the cultural stage called Middle Palaeolithic. This is a period which is of shortest duration and hence can be truly considered as a period of transition from Lower Palaeolithic to Upper Palaeolithic.

1. Scraper:

The actual name of this type is Side Scraper but most of the Non-European writings still use the term singly. That is, unless otherwise qualified as End Scrapers, Scraper will mean a Side Scraper. This forms the most common of all flake tools known from the entire Lower to Middle Palaeolithic period. There are as many as 21 sub­types identified within the side scrapers.

There are based on slight techno-morphological variations. A side scraper is a flake tool in which one or more lateral borders are shaped by contiguous retouchings. If this retouching is done in ‘fish-scale’ manner such side scrapers are also referred to as Quina scrapers. (Fish scale is a special manner of retouching in which a series of tiny steps appear as ripples.)

2. End Scraper:

This is a tool type in which the scraping border is at the morphological end of the specimen and also the retouchings on the border are steeper than in side scrapers. In Lower and Middle Palaeolithic it occurs in simple form of an end retouched specimen while in Upper Palaeolithic it takes a specific shape. The Upper Palaeolithic end scrapers are prepared on thick blades the terminal ends of which are retouched at a high angle. At least 15 sub-types within this category have been identified.

3. Point:

Point in prehistory is often a misunderstood type. There may be many broken flakes or blades which have convenient workable pointed ends (and may indeed, have been used as a point) but such specimens cannot be included into the type Point until they show evidence of deliberate reinforcement on them.

These are triangular flakes in which one of the angles is acute and show reinforcement around the apex. In some special cases retouchings may be done along only one border while the other border has a natural fracture. Mousterian point is a very special form of this type known from only some specific areas. The speciality of these points lies in their symmetrical finish with almost all round retouchings.

4. Borer:

This is a type which, like the end scraper, is more of an Upper Palaeolithic character. In Lower and Middle Palaeolithic it occurs in generalized forms. It is a type in which a thick projected end of a flake is specially obtained by etching out two (ideally) notches at the base. In many cases removing of even one notch can serve the purpose.

5. Backed Knife:

This is a Lower and Middle Palaeolithic knife which needs to be differentiated from the Upper Palaeolithic knife blades which are also backed. These are specific flakes which are so removed that they have three surfaces (i.e. in cross-section these tools are triangular) of which two surfaces are tranchet and converge to form an elongated sharp border running along the length of the flake.

These two surfaces and the border created by them never have any retouchings. The surface opposite the border may be flaked to form a sort of backing. In many cases even this surface is composed of the natural cortex. That is, it is a tool type of planning and may carry no evidence of any further working on it.

6. Notch and Denticulate:

These are two different types named entirely structurally. Although all types are structurally defined but the names used to designate them have remained functional just to keep in conformity with earlier literature. Seen in this regard these types appear both comfortable and also uncomfortable for perception. Comfortable because the name indicated the techno- morphology of the specimen.

A notch is any specimen with a deliberate lateral incurve while a denticulate is any specimen in which more than one notch is prepared along a border. We feel uncomfortable because unlike a ‘Knife’ or a ‘Scraper’ these type names do not appear relevant in our understanding of culture. It is important, therefore, to re- emphasize that types do not attempt to describe a culture. It is that fixed morphological description which helps to identify cultures or culture boundaries from within a complicated spread of activities and their left overs.

7. Foliate or Blattspitzen:

Back to types again, this is a thin bifacially worked point which is entirely prepared by controlled percussion technique. These points can be differentiated from the leaf points (laurel leaf, willow leaf) in the generalized crudeness of finish in the first place.

Secondly, leaf points are prepared by pressure flaking technique in such a manner that the thinning of the body and regularizing the working border are both achieved by the same series of flakes. In Blattspitzen, these are done by separate flakes and hence a large number of tiny step flakings are required in the control of the flakings.

8. Burin:

This is again an Upper Palaeolithic type but may be known in atypical forms from as early as late Lower Palaeolithic. Burin can be prepared on a flake, blade or even on a core. The working end is exactly comparable to the same of a screw driver.

This 0.5 to 1 cm transverse cutting edge is obtained by the intersection of two plains which meet at an angle. Hence these are also called dyhedral angle burins. The two plains are called burin facets and the manner of their preparation decides the sub-type of the burin.

The types that discriminate the Upper Palaeolithic are all prepared on blades. These blades can be retouched in order to reinforce a border or blunt it in order to obtain desired results. Given below are some of the typical Upper Palaeolithic types and the traditions that these types define.


1. Retouched Blade:

These are moderately broad, thick and long blades retouched in semi-abrupt retouches. The retouchings extend all around the borders including the terminal ends. In a typical Aurignacian blade the retouching is in the manner of fish scale. In some instances two notches are made on the centre of the blade along the opposite lateral borders.

These blades are termed Strangled blades. A similar kind of retouching done on a smaller and slender blade characterize Aurignacian industries known around the Correze valley in south west France. These are called Font-Yves points after the name of the type site.

In the same valley another type prepared on a bladelet by semi-abrupt retouching is quite common. These are called Dufour bladelets. A Dufour bladelet is a slender bladelet of 2-4 cm in length in which one lateral border is retouched from the dorsal surface and the other from the ventral surface. Both these borders have semi-abrupt retouchings.

2. Aurignacian Burin:

This cultural tradition is also characterized by the occurrence of a specific variety of burin. Here one of the facets forming the burin edge is made convex by preparing a notch on the lateral border. This makes the area of the surface laying above the notch weak. Hence any oblique blow delivered on the top traverses a curved path in order to emerge from the weak region.

This results in a convex fracture. The other facet which intersects with this plain is simple and vertical. These burins are called Basque burins. Another variety of burins quite common in Aurignacian tradition is called the axial or symmetrical burin. In French this burin is also referred to as Bec-de-flute burin. This is prepared at the distal end of a thick blade in such a way that the burin edge lies symmetrically along the mid-axis of the blade.

It is believed that this can be achieved by holding the (would be) working end at the corner of a fixed anvil and then hitting the rear end of the blade. This results in the removal of a vertical spall (flakes removed to obtain a burin facet). Thus, the process repeated can produce two such vertical spalls which intersect to form the burin edge.

3. Aurignacian End Scraper:

These are end scrapers prepared on thick but small nodules and found in association with blade and scrapers in many west European Aurignacian sites. A medium sized core is taken and a large flake is removed from it to form a flat under surface. Calculated tapping blows are delivered around the periphery of this flat surface to result in a series of flake scars meetings at the apex of the pyramidical obverse.

The special appearance of these scrapers led them being termed Carinated end scrapers. If carinated end scrapers are so designed that the scraping end projects out in the form of a nose, such a type is known as nose end scraper. This is achieved by delivering one or a pair of notches on the side of the working border.

The above three types along with several variations of an ivory lance point form the main features of almost all Aurignacians.


1. Blade Knive:

In Perigordian industries broad flat blades have been retouched to form several kinds of knives and these by far form the most frequent typology all through this stage and the subsequent cultural traditions. In the initial stages they are few and far between and constitute abrupt retouching of one naturally obtained sharp, edge of a broad and flat blade while the opposite border acts as the knife edge.

In the later stages they are made on rather thick blades with triangular cross-section in such a way that the blunting is done upto the thick mid rib. As a result these become narrowed in appearance. Further, these backed blades show deliberate attempt at deriving a pointed distal end with flat ventral surface retouchings. These latter types, as such, are no longer called knives but points.

Audi Knife is one of the earliest of these backed blade types. This is a rather short and broad blade where one border is blunted towards the distal end in a slanted or semi-circular manner to meet the naturally-sharp working edge.

Chattelperronean Knife:

Sonneville-Bordes calls it a knife point because here the blade is rather elongated and the backing is done completely along one border in such a way that it gently curves down to meet the working edge at the anterior end. Usually even the base of these blades is rounded off by extending the abrupt lateral retouchings.

Gravettian Point:

These are thick blades where bold backing along one or both the borders (often from both the surfaces) renders the breadth of the blade to almost half so that the backed ends meet anteriorly at an acute angle. The ventral surface around the pointed end also shows some flat retouchings done in order to narrow down the thickness of the point.

Shouldered Blade Tools- (Perigordian to Magdalenian):

Many Gravettian points show a single shoulder prepared at the butt end and along the border opposite the backed border. Most of these backed points show minor retouchings on both the borders and the ventral surface of the working end. A typical type under this category is called Font-Robert Point. This is a Gravettian point with two shallow notches at the base which gives rise to a rather elongated shoulder and a broad tang.

During the Solutrean tradition similar shouldered points are recorded with shallow pressure flaking retouches. These are prepared on moderately broad blades with triangular cross-section in which the rippled pressure flaking retouches cover one half of the breadth of the blade (usually upto the median ridge) with a single shoulder prepared. These are termed as the Solutrean plane faced shouldered points.

Another variety of shouldered point”, is identified in the Magdalenian period. These are likewise termed Magdalenian shouldered point. These are smaller than the Solutrean points and have a shoulder prepared almost at one third distance from the pointed lip. The tang, therefore, is both elongated (almost two third of the total length) and broad.

2. Hamburgian Point:

This is a moderately broad blade in which one border is so backed that the anterior half slopes to give rise to a point while the posterior half slopes in a concave fashion to form the tang. Occasionally the backing at the butt-end may be extended a little along the second border as well. This tool type is very common in the north European flat land during late Pleistocene period. It is named after a similar site found near the city of Hamburg in W. Germany.

3. Ahrensburgian Point:

The same area during the closing phase of Pleistocene yielded a series of Epi-Palaeolithic industries of which Ahrensburg is a famous site. Here the points are double shouldered as a rule, (besides carrying the backing along one sloping border) to from the pointed end.

4. Kostienki Point:

This is a type named after an Upper Palaeolithic site by the river Don in European Russia. The tool in ideal form is made on a blade with a convex sharp border (suitable to obtain on bladish flakes). The point is derived by backing the opposite border which may be slightly slanting. Flat flakings on both dorsal and ventral surfaces are removed from the pointed and the butt-end with an aim to make the point and the butt more effective. A shoulder is etched out by either straight or slightly incurved backing of the same border from around half or more length of the blade.

5. Truncated Blade:

This is a tool type which is taken as the type fossil of Perigordian-Vb in France. As the name indicates this is any blade or bladelet the shorter ends of which are blunted with steep and abrupt retouch. In addition to these the lateral borders as well may be given the same blunting treatment.

6. Solutrean Leaf Point:

These are exceptionally thin and flat points which show the zenith of stone tool manufacturing technology. Their moderately long and proportionately broad shape coupled with the extreme thinness gives them the appearance of characteristic laurel leaves and hence the name.

The surfaces of the tool are covered with shallow and elongated flakings originating from both the borders and meeting along the mid-axis. These flakings show a characteristic ripple like appearance which is taken to interpret a very controlled pressure flaking technique having been employed.

Prof. Bordes, however, had demonstrated that almost similar effect can be produced (in much lesser time) by the percussion flaking as well. These tools can be double or single points and also can be unifacial as also bifacial. These are found restricted only in the Southern industries from southwest France and some isolated regions of northern Spain.

Laurel Leaf:

This by definition is a bifacial leaf point which may be double or single. This type is described only from Upper Solutrean layers. In some Spanish Solutrean layers the borders of these points are characteristically serrated.

Willow Leaf:

This is usually unifacial and occurs a little later than Laurel leaves in French Upper Solutrean. The ventral surface is a flat flake scar which may contain a little flaking at the pointed region to reinforce the sharpness. These points are usually shorter and narrower than average laurel leaf and are also shouldered in many instances.

Szeletian Leaf Point:

These are bifacially retouched leaf shaped pieces which by and large lack the fineness of French Solutrean retouchings. Like Central European Blattspitzen these also often carry patches of flat original surface though the final shape of these pieces and their relative thickness often compare with the Solutrean leaf points.

6. Mesolithic Types:

The tools belonging to the Mesolithic period are all prepared on micro-blades produced by fluting technique. These are tools which could not have been used simply by hand. There are some evidences known form Greece, Norway, Sweden and Denmark which demonstrate that these tiny stone specimens were merely elements which in combination were crafted on wooden or bone handles to be finally used as implements. Such finished types as spear heads, arrow heads, sickles, knives, daggers and similar other weapons could be easily planned by using these microliths in several forms of combinations.

In Indian prehistoric contents, however, most of these microliths occur without their original competitive context except at Mehrgarh. Therefore, the typologies for these are purely structural in description like the earlier periods. To identify a microlithic type one needs only to specify the area of retouch on the blades – the basic tool bank of this period.

When a blade has parallel ridges along its dorsal surface its own borders are also as a rule parallel. This kind of blade is called a parallel sided or simply P S blade. In contradistinction to these there may be some blades with series of bilateral flakings seen on the dorsal surface. These flake scars run horizontally to meet along a ridge.

It is believed that this ridge was specially obtained by these transverse scars in order to guide the length of a blade to be removed and also to form a suitable bed for blade removal. Such blades, even though they have parallel borders, are called Crest Guiding blades. Many other thick but short blades with triangular cross-section are known to occur in every microlithic assemblage.

These are of no regular shape and are grouped as either Core trimming blades or Core trimming flakes depending on their elongation, (i.e., L > 2B). There is a more or less universally agreed recommendation to designate all blades having length equal to or less than 5 cm and breadth equal to or less than 1.2 cm (i.e. 12 mm) as bladelets or micro-blades.

i. Retouched Blade:

Microlithic blades can be retouched in two different manners. These can be either bold retouchings on thick borders or a variety of microscopic retouchings. These can further be divided into two more varieties. That is to say, retouching a border to reinforce the sharpness in the manner of Aurignacian blades or retouching abruptly to blunt a border in the manner of Perigordian blades. Therefore, at least 4 different kinds of microlithic retouched blades can be identified.

ii. Obliquely Blunted Blade:

It is a specific variety of retouched blade. Here, one of the lateral borders is blunted. The blunting is done in such a manner as to meet the opposite sharp border anteriorly. The blunted border may be smooth and convex or it may be angular. In specifically broad blades this type looks very much like a diminutive Chattelperron knife and hence is also referred to as Pen knife. Azilian point of Europe, although quite young (Epi-Palaeolithic) in date is also referred to as Pen Knife in European literature. An obliquely blunted microlithic blade is usually much smaller than even these Azilian points.

iii. Point:

Any blade broken in a triangular manner and then retouched along both the sloping borders to give rise to the point is designated as the type Point. Sometimes thick blades or bladelets between 5-6 cm in length are steeply retouched along the borders to give rise to a point at both the anterior as also the posterior end.

These double points are termed Sauveterranean points after the Mesolithic site called Saveterre-La Lemance from south France. There is also a diminutive form of Gravettian point made on bladelets during Mesolithic period and these are termed Micro-Gravette points. Instances of points made on microlithic flakes are also known in many areas and these need to be distinguished as flake-points.

iv. Triangle:

These are one of the most beautiful tool types of Mesolithic culture. The type is counted as geometric microlith. These are usually shorter and smaller than points and have no reinforcement of the point. It has usually one border or/and base which are retouched in this type.

Two most characteristic triangles are:

(a) Scalene triangle, and

(b) Isosceles triangle.

When a blade is shaped in the form of a scalene triangle by retouching the two borders that form the obtuse angle the type is called a scalene triangle. There are many variations possible within this type. In triangles all the three borders may also be retouched. When a blade is specially shaped as an isosceles triangle and only the base is retouched (usually), it is termed as an isosceles triangle. It is needless to emphasize that there may be many borders retouched in this type as well. These merely serve as variations.

v. Crescent or Lunate:

This is prepared by a semi-circular retouching of one of the borders of a blade and as such appears like a segment of a circle. In a typical piece the maximum width lies at the middle of the length of tool. Asymmetrical lunates can merge with the range of variations of scalene triangles.

vi. Trapeze:

These are trapezoid segments of blades the borders of which are retouched. This is taken as another geometric microlith. Usually more than one border is retouched and in rare cases all the four borders may be retouched.

vii. Microburin:

Besides normal burins, often prepared on fragments of fluted cores, mesolithic industries in many areas, have yielded Microburins. It is a tiny burin prepared on a notch is such a manner that the facet below is in the same plane as the dorsal surface and the notch is in the under surface. (In normal burins the facets are across the dorso-ventral plane and hence the burin edge is equal to the thickness of the blade).

7. Neolithic Types:

One of the most common and almost diagnostic type fossils of this period is a ground axe. There can be a large variety of these ground axes and all of these can be clubbed together under the family name of celt. In other words, celts can be defined as simply ground axes. There are at least 3 main types within which the celts can be divided. These are- Axes, Adzes and Chisels.

Axes are roughly triangular in form with a firm transverse edge. The specimen may be oval to rectangular in cross- section. The working edge is invariably ground and polished. In addition to this many specimens are totally ground and smoothened.

Axes can be further sub-divided according to the nature of the butt-end preparation. In many instances butt-end may be rectangular without any grinding, in some it may be rounded off while in a third kind the butt may be specially pointed. To distinguish the axes that is biconvex in profile (minimally only the profile of the working end).

Adzes are similar to axes in all general features except that these are usually thinner and hence may have been prepared on suitable flakes. The transverse working border is formed by a convex surface meeting a flat undersurface. This levelling can also be done by flat rubbing of one surface of an otherwise thin axe. In profile all adzes are plano­convex in shape.

Chisels are small, narrow, rectangular pieces in which the two broader surfaces slope down to meet at the working end while the smaller surfaces running in place of the two lateral borders remain smooth without any kind of slope. These are usually much longer than the axes or adzes.

Shouldered celts are celts occurring in south-east Asian Neolithic sites only. These can be axes or adzes at the butt- end of which sharp rectilinear shoulders have been cut-out. The right angled nature of these shoulders led many authorities to believe that metal wires must have been used to do the cutting and hence these are younger than neolithic age (which by definition is a premetal age). Subsequent experiments seem to have demonstrated that thin silver of bamboo with sand and water can make such cuts in some softer variety of tones. Hence it is quite likely that some of them may represent a Neolithic type.

Besides these basic types almost all Neolithic sites yield a large number of ring stones, saddle and querns, bolas and grooved bolas as well. Since these are mere stone pieces put to different uses they do not involve any specific typotechnological description. It is also important to mention that most of the Neolithic sites also introduce the use of ceramics for the first time. We can go into ceramic technology and types in the following section.

8. Chalcolithic or Ceramic Types:

From Chalcolithic to early historic archaeology ceramics form the most predominant left over. It is not surprising, therefore, that the typo-technology of ceramics during this period forms the main tool of analysis. Evidences of structures, ornaments, weapons and many other spheres of activities may also be known but these do not form such a regular feature as to form a unit of typology.

Hence ceramics have to stay as the main diagnostic attribute of all Chalcolithic and subsequent cultural stages till proper history came up. Regarding the using of ceramics as diagnostic trait it needs to be emphasized that two different cultures in contemporary Indian villages may be known to use identical ceramic types and such evidences, when known from prehistory, are bound to be grouped as a single culture.

That is, our identification is merely at the level of ceramic distributional homogeneity or heterogeneity in the absence of any other cultural attributes. Many ceramic cultures identified in the past, therefore, might have been in reality an agglomeration of different cultural groups having trade supply of ceramics from a single central group. The technique of pottery manufacturing has been studied in detail in the recent past.

The techniques identified are represented in terms of clay preparation, process of obtaining the shape, finishing and firing. The typological classification is mainly based on the detailed morphological features. Like in the Stone Age, here also there is always an intimate relationship of techniques with types.

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