Thermal engineering of stone increased prehistoric toolmaking skill.
Intentional heat treating of toolstone has been documented to have begun at least by 70 K BP; however, the advantages of such treatment have been debated for decades. There are two schools of thought with regard to its purpose. One, is that it merely reduces the force required for flake propagation. A second is that it also alters flake morphological properties. We systematically tested these hypotheses by generating flakes from cores exposed to three different temperatures (ambient, 300 °C, and 350 °C) using automated propagation procedures that bypassed any human agency. While the force propagation magnitude is altered by heat treatment, the flakes were not. We examined these flakes according to nine measures of morphology. None differed significantly or systematically within the three categories. While our results confirm that heat treatment does reduce the force needed for flake propagation, they also demonstrate that such treatment has no significant effect on major morphological aspects of flake form.
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