Flaking Stone with Wooden Implements

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Science  10 Jul 1970:
Vol. 169, Issue 3941, pp. 146-153
DOI: 10.1126/science.169.3941.146


Two of the seven Palliaike points show better quality workmanship than the other five. The better workmanship seems to result from use of a material superior to basalt rather than from greater skill. All seven examples show surface smoothing to a varying degree. The bifacial smoothing could be either intentional abrading by the worker or unintentional smoothing by function. Without the aid of considerable magnification and further experiment, it is difficult to pass final judgment. If these points were hafted, it would seem that the bifacial basal smoothing could not be the result of function. Hafting could be accomplished by using resins and adhesives to affix the base of the point to a wooden shaft, as was done by the Kimberley aborigines. Many Clovis points from western North America are smoothed to an even greater degree—for example, those found at the Simon Site in Idaho. Some points show the detachment of short flakes terminating in step fractures. But this may be a result of the Palliaike points being made of basalt, a very difficult material to work, of the worker being less skilled, or of the wooden flaker being inadequate to overcome the coarse-grained material. All the Palliaike points are thick in relation to their width, which makes them resistant to breakage. However, since only one point in the collection (Fig. 1a) shows an attempt at basal thinning, the worker may have been unable to control the coarse-grained basalt, which is difficult to thin with a wooden flaker, or he may simply have wanted the point thick for a particular function.