Big debates over little tools: Ongoing disputes over microliths on three continents

Hiscock, Peter, Clarkson, Chris and Mackay, Alex (2011) Big debates over little tools: Ongoing disputes over microliths on three continents. World Archaeology, 43 4: 653-664. doi:10.1080/00438243.2011.624755

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Author Hiscock, Peter
Clarkson, Chris
Mackay, Alex
Title Big debates over little tools: Ongoing disputes over microliths on three continents
Journal name World Archaeology   Check publisher's open access policy
ISSN 0043-8243
1470-1375
Publication date 2011-01-01
Year available 2011
Sub-type Critical review of research, literature review, critical commentary
DOI 10.1080/00438243.2011.624755
Volume 43
Issue 4
Start page 653
End page 664
Total pages 12
Place of publication Abingdon, Oxon, United Kingdom
Publisher Routledge
Collection year 2012
Language eng
Subject 3302 Archaeology
1900 Earth and Planetary Sciences
1204 Engineering Design
Abstract After more than a century, debate over the explanation of microliths continues. We review debates on three continents (Australia, India and southern Africa), and argue that depictions of them as purely symbolic items manufactured for public display are implausible. Two different mechanisms dominate recent discussions: 1) exchange of symbolically loaded artefacts as a device for constructing cultural connections and establishing access to territory/resources, and 2) microliths as portable and standardized tools that helped buffer foragers against economic risk and/or scheduling difficulties by increasing multi-functionality and tool readiness as an aid in reducing fluctuations in resource capture. We show that there is a different history and pattern to microlith use on each continent and dissimilar environmental contexts for microlith-intensive phases. This conclusion challenges any notion that a single simple process underpins microlith use across the globe and implies that comparative studies might enhance understandings of this process of technological change.
Keyword Backed artefacts
Environment
Exchange
Microliths
Palaeolithic
Q-Index Code C1
Q-Index Status Provisional Code
Institutional Status UQ

Document type: Journal Article
Sub-type: Critical review of research, literature review, critical commentary
Collection: School of Social Science Publications
 
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