Responses of South African Agate and Chalcedony When Heated Experimentally, and the Broader Implications for Heated Archaeological Minerals
Here we present a database of responses by South African agate and chalcedony to heat treatment. This will assist analyses of heated stone tools not only in South African archaeological sites, but wherever heated agate and chalcedony pieces were knapped. The minerals are abundant worldwide. To replicate potential heating methods during the Stone Age we placed some minerals in a wood fire, some under coals, and others were buried in sediments beneath fires. Thermal responses include lustrous flaked surfaces, pot lid fractures, semi-circular internal fractures, rough internal surfaces, and crazing. Aerobic heating is implied by pot lid fractures. To explain the thermal responses we analyzed the minerals using X-ray fluorescence, Raman spectroscopy, and carbon and sulfur analyses. Our chalcedony contains more water and impurities than agate, making it more vulnerable to thermal damage. Our method of combining field experiments with chemical analyses has global applications even though we expect that mineral components of agate and chalcedony will vary slightly in different parts of the world.