A novel approach to studies of prehistoric exploitation of stone tool materials using material composition, surface morphology, microstructure and mechanical properties

Kaoru Yonekura, Hiroyuki Hasegawa, Atsushi Hotta, Tetsuya Suzuki

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

8 Citations (Scopus)


For a comprehensive understanding of material exploitation in prehistory, we applied advanced analytical methods to Japanese prehistoric stone tool materials. Compositions, surface morphologies, microstructures and mechanical properties of the primary lithic materials were analysed. As a result of the tests on actual Palaeolithic artefacts, preferential material selection was observed based on composition, structure and other physical properties of the materials. Homogeneous materials composed of a single type of mineral - α-quartz - were intentionally selected for Palaeolithic tools regardless of the type of rock. These materials unexceptionally present higher hardness and strength. Moreover, materials composed of extremely fine crystal grains of ∼0.1 μm in size with highest hardness and strength were selectively used for sharp-edged blades. These results lead us to the conclusion that quantitative and objective analyses will give us precise information on prehistoric materials, which will enable us to make an analytical approach to the comprehension of prehistoric exploitation of stone materials. This could eventually complement the traditional interpretation of material exploitation based on conventional petrological classifications.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)727-746
Number of pages20
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 2008



  • Cognition
  • Flexural strength test
  • Material selection
  • Mechanical properties
  • Microstructure
  • Mineral composition
  • Palaeolithic raw material
  • Scanning electron microscopy
  • Transmission electron microscopy
  • Vickers hardness test
  • X-ray diffraction

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Archaeology
  • History

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