Publication Details

Rots, V., Hayes, E. H., Cnuts, D., Lepers, C. & Fullagar, R. (2016). Making sense of residues on flaked stone artefacts: learning from blind tests. PLoS One, 11 (3), e0150437-1-e0150437-38.


Residue analysis has become a frequently applied method for identifying prehistoric stone tool use. Residues adhering to the stone tool with varying frequencies are interpreted as being the result of an intentional contact with the worked material during use. Yet, other processes during the life cycle of a stone tool or after deposition may leave residues and these residues may potentially lead to misinterpretations. We present a blind test that was designed to examine this issue. Results confirm that production, retouch, prehension, hafting, various incidental contacts during use and deposition may lead to residue depositions that significantly affect the accurateness of identifications of tool-use. All currently applied residue approaches are concerned. We therefore argue for a closer interaction with independent wear studies and a step-wise procedure in which a low magnification of wear traces is used as a first step for selecting potentially used flakes in archaeological contexts. In addition, residue concentrations on a tool's edge should be sufficiently dense before linking them with use.



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