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Wear traces on Basalt Tools: an Experimental case for archaeological interpretation


Basalt is one of the most common raw materials used for tool manufacture in many prehistoric sites. As a result, it is often the most important-and sometimes the only- source of information about the life and behaviour of early hominins. While studies related to the other aspects (i.e. knapping processes, tool variability) of these assemblages progress, systematic studies on how and what basalt tools were used for remain inexistent. This seriously limits the behavioural, evolutionary and cognitive interpretations of basalt assemblages. BaTEx aims to fill in this existing void by providing the necessary methodological framework using multiple macro- and microscopic techniques and experimentation to permit the functional analysis of basalt tools, and by understanding past exploitation strategies of basalt, its functional significance and its interaction with other raw materials at specific archaeological sites where basalt is important.
To achieve this, the project will focus on: 1) Systematic experimentation for developing a reference collection; 2) Adaptation of standardized use-wear analytical methods to basalt; 3) Blind test to assess the robustness of the experimental corpus; 4) Evaluation of the impact of taphonomic processes on trace preservation; 5) Test the potential of use-wear quantification on basalt using surface morphometry and spatial analysis of rough surfaces; and 6) Use the experimental results in archaeological case-studies by means of a traceological study on a selection of archaeological tools hereby demonstrating the validity and the potential of the method. The expected impact of the project is that it will provide functional data on basalt tools allowing, for the first time, to fully study and interpret human activities at key archaeological sites and to properly address technological issues, subsistence patterns and even behavioural and cognitive aspects of basalt assemblages, which cannot yet be faced in the current stage of research.

Call for proposal

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Funding Scheme

MSCA-IF-EF-ST - Standard EF
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Place Du 20 Aout 7
4000 Liege
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
EU contribution
€ 178 320