A Twenty-First Century Archaeology of Stone Artifacts

Simon Holdaway*, Matthew Douglass

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

87 Citations (Scopus)


Archaeologists today, as in the past, continue to divide their stone artifact assemblages into categories and to give privilege to certain of these categories over others. Retouched tools and particular core forms, for instance, are thought to contain more information than the unretouched flakes and flake fragments. This reflects the assumption that information to be gained from stone artifacts is present within the artifact itself. This study evaluates a continued interest in the final form of stone artifacts by first considering ethnographic accounts of stone artifact manufacture and use in Australia and then by utilizing the patterns observed in these accounts to investigate assemblage patterning within an Australian archaeological case study. Reading the ethnographic accounts provides no indication that Aboriginal people valued more or less complex artifacts, in uniform ways, in every situation. In fact, the opposite is true. Stone artifacts were always valued in some sense but which ones, and in which ways, depended on the situations the people who needed the artifacts found themselves in. Aboriginal people were quite capable of making and using expedient and informal artifacts in complex ways. The significance of these observations is considered for stone artifact studies in general and in relation to a case study from western New South Wales, Australia.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)101-131
Number of pages31
JournalJournal of Archaeological Method and Theory
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2012
Externally publishedYes


  • Ethnoarchaeology
  • Stone artifacts


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