Glossary of Terms: Stone Age Artifacts, Paleolithic, Neolithic, Mousterian, Mesolithic age tools



The Stone Age Artifacts Gallery

Glossary of Terms


Anvil – A surface, usually stone that functions as a resting place for the object during production. Characterized by localized indentations and pitting generally near the center.

Artifact – Any object made be mankind. Any piece of stone, bone, plant material that has been used and or modified be mankind.

Axe – A heavy chopping implement with a symmetric working edge that is hafted in a handle, used to usually chop wood.

Basalt – A dark colored aphanitic (fine grained) igneous rock (volcanic rock).  Contains mainly  plagioclase, pyroxene, and olivine.

Blade – An elongated piece of stone that was detached from a core. Rule of thumb being twice as long as it is wide.

Bulb of Percussion – The swollen area (rounded raised area) on a surface where it meets the striking platform. Caused by the force of the strike from stone working tool. The bulb of percussion is the primary feature that identifies the ventral surface of a flake or blade artifact. Locating its position reveals which is the proximal end of an artifact.

Burin – Any artifact used for the purpose of engraving and cutting into another surface. Chisel like implement.

Burin spall – The piece struck off to produce the burin.

Carinated – Artifact possessing the shape of a ship’s keel, some what triangular shaped.

Chalcedony – Fine grain verity of Quartz often deposited as a secondary filler of voids in volcanic rocks, such as cavities and fissures. Found in almost every color.  Tends to be translucent in light colors to opaque as colors become darker.  Agate, jasper, flint and chert are interchangeable forms of chalcedony.  Red color is produced by hematite, gray and black by ferric iron or organic carbon.

Chert – Fine grain verity of Quartz, usually lighter colored, commonly found as nodules in limestone.

Chopper – A heavy, relative thick edged, minimally worked stone tool presumed to have been used in chopping and cutting activities.

Conchoidal ripples – Concentric rings or ribs radiating out from the bulb of percussion (point of impact). On the ventral surface, they appear as positive relief, and on the dorsal surface appear as negative relief.

Cleavage surface – The surface created by a rock or mineral when broken along a preferred (natural) direction, creating a bright reflective plane surface.

Core – The original rock, slab, cobble from which portions were removed by force (percussion of pressure), resulting in an artifact, which may be retouched or otherwise modified.

Core tool – An artifact that uses the modified core as a tool, rather that the removed flakes, i.e. choppers and hand axes.

Cortex – The natural exterior surface of a rock weathered by natural processes.

Debitage – The waste material that is produced in the manufacture of the artifacts.

Denticulated – A characteristic large spaced "saw toothed" pattern created by retouches on the perimeter of an artifact.

Distal end – The opposite end of an artifact (proximal end) from where the bulb of percussion is located.

Dorsal surface – The surface of an artifact that exhibits cortex or flake scars resulting from the removal of material before detachment of the piece from the core.  The surface of the removed piece that is the furthest away from the core body. Also known at the primary, principal, or front view. It is opposite of the ventral surface.

End scraper – A tool with the working edge on the proximal or distal end of the artifact, also see side scraper and scrapper.

Flake – Rule of thumb being a piece that is less than twice as long as it is wide. Also used as a general term meaning any fragment of stone removed from a core piece by force often exhibiting a conchoidal fractured surface.

Flake Scar – The marks left on the surface of an artifact by the removal of chips and flakes from the working and retouching of the artifact.

Flint – Fine grain verity of Quartz, usually characterized by its darker color gray, red, black, and sometimes even white.  commonly found as layers in limestone. 

Flute – A flake removed longitudinally from the base of a projectile point to create a groove or channel to aide in hafting a shaft.

Hafted – To attach a handle or shaft, such as a stick, to a artifact with leather strips or natural fibers.

Halfa – The name associated to a type of prepared core and to the final piece struck from it, weather or not the piece is retouched later. "Levallois" is an example of a halfa artifact. The artifact displays distinct flake scars often in a parallel bladelet pattern or flake scared pattern on the distal end.

Hammerstone – Tool used as a hammer to detach flakes from a core. Usually a hard rock such as quartzite, characterized by crushed and battered regions on one or more edges.

Hand Axe – Also known as bifaces, are usually large artifacts semi-flat with outlines that narrow towards the top (distal end) and larger at the at the base, often in an almond or pear shape, or the wider heart shaped form. Handaxes usually exhibit flake scars and retouches extend over most or all of the major opposing surfaces.

Hinge fracture – The abrupt and steeply prominent termination of the distal end of a flake scar. Rounded or curved termination.

Knife – An acute edged cutting implement, often used to refer to a well worked thin artifact such as biface with acute edges.

Levallois – The name associated to a type of prepared core and to the final piece struck from it, weather or not the piece is retouched later. Levallois technique exhibits diagnostic scars particular to the fashioning of a Levallois flake or blade.

Micropolish – The wear or damage on an artifact's cutting edge caused be its intended use, such as in the process of cutting and scrapping wood, bone, meat, and hide.

Oblique – At an angle to both the vertical and the horizontal.

Patina – The visible alterations to the surface of the artifact with respect to the properties concerning color, luster, and texture. The patina is a naturally occurring process resulting from weathering, such as heat and cold, wind-driven particles, moisture, water action, and naturally occurring geochemical processes. Patina gives the artifact its "old look". An important and excellent indicator of an artifacts originality.

Percussion – Flaking technique that uses a direct strike such as a hammer stone hitting a piece of lithic material.  Also soft hammer percussion technique, direct strike from a bone, antler, or wood hammer tool.

Platform – Is the area on the core that receives the blows or pressure that remove pieces.

Pressure flaking  – Flaking technique that uses a build up of pressure to remove a flake from a piece of lithic material.

Projectile point  – A weapon tip for an implement such as an arrow, blade, or spear point.

Proximal end – The end of an artifact from where the bulb of percussion is located.

Quartz – Mineral composed of silicon-oxygen.  Has a glassy luster and a conchoidal fracture.  

Quartzite –  Quartz sandstone recrystallized by metamorphism.  Heat and pressure fuse quartz grains together to form a dense, fine, medium, or large grained sugar textured rock.

Resharpening – Sharpening an artifact by detaching flakes along a previously used edge which has become dulled.  May occur a number or times on a single tool.

Retouch – All intentional flaking that modifies an artifact after detachment from the core. Commonly in a series of contiguous small flake scars located on the perimeter of the tool.  Retouching is used to sharpen, thin, shape, blunt, or other wise modify the artifact.

Scar ridges – The boundaries of individual flake scars.

Scraper – A tool designed to be used to scrape material such as wood, bone, and hide.  the main feature is a steep working angle.

Serrated – Retouched along a cutting edge to form small saw-like teeth.

Side scraper  – A scrapper with the working edge on the lateral side (edge) of the artifact.  Also see end scraper and scrapper.

Sickle – A crescent shaped object with retouches on the convex edge.

Striations – Scratches produced on an artifact from being used.

Truncation – The process that produced drastic redirection of the outline in the artifact’s distal or proximal region. A tool can exhibit truncation with respect to being straight, convex, or concave.

Usewear – The damage or wear on the edge of an artifact as a result of its being used.  Examples of usewear are small flakes being removed from edge, polished and smoothed edges from cutting hide, scrapping bone and wood, and abrasions that round the edge and leave striations.

Ventifact –  A rock naturally shaped and polished by the wind-blown sand material being used as an abrasive.

Ventral surface – The surface of the artifact that was attached to the core. (The opposite of dorsal surface) The ventral side contains(ed) the bulb of percussion. Also known as the back of the artifact.

Weathering – The naturally occurring process which alters the surface (color, luster, and texture ) of an artifact resulting from heat and cold, wind-driven particles, moisture, water action, and naturally occurring geochemical processes.

Brian P. Kooyman, Understanding Stone Tools and Archaeology Sites, 2000.   
Lucile R. Addington,  Lithic Illustration, 1986.

Each artifact is unique and no two pieces are quite the same, similar to snowflakes.  So once an item is purchased, there usually is not another artifact to replace it.

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Fishing Points / Arrowheads

  Spear Points / Blades

Danish Axes

Scrapers / Denticulates
Serrated / Notched


Knives / Blades


   Hand Axes / Choppers

     Cores / Hammer Stones

Flakes Tools
Mousterian Points
Miscellaneous Artifacts