Residues and usewear



Publication Details

Fullagar, R. (2014). Residues and usewear. In J. Balme & A. Paterson (Eds.), Archaeology in Practice: a Student Guide to Archaeological Analyses (pp. 232-263). United Kingdom: John Wiley & Sons.

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Archaeology in Practice


In this chapter, we consider two main functional traces: residues and usewear. Residues refer to materials that are transferred and adhere to an artifact (Briuer 1976; Evershed et al. 1992; Loy 1994; Pollard & Heron 1996). Of particular interest is the transfer of residues during use, but some residues are unrelated to use and reflect incidental contact, burial processes, or even modern contaminants (Fankhauser 1993a). Certain residues can survive on artifacts for millions of years, and the techniques of residue analysis are broadly applicable to all archeological objects, although methods of extraction may differ. Usewear (or "use-wear") refers to the wear on the edges and surfaces of an implement (Hayden 1979a). Microwear sometimes refers to an approach that employs metallographic microscopes usually at high magnification, and especially (but not exclusively) to observe and interpret polishes on stone tools (see the following discussion). Traceology is a term that may refer to study of any traces (whether residues or surface alterations) but usually in the context of tool use, and can be synonymous with microwear (see Plisson et al. 1988; Vaughan & Hopert 1982-3). All of these terms refer to surface modifications during use, hafting, handling, and storage (see Hayden 1979a). Some forms of usewear may incorporate or absorb residues within surface layers, providing a mixture of additive residue and usewear traces. The general principles of usewear analysis are applicable to all material classes (including artifacts made of wood, bone, stone, and metal), but specific methods and interpretive rules have been developed for particular raw materials.

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