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Functional Analyses of Mesolithic Ground Stone Tools

(Gefördert durch die Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG) - Projektnummer 415158854)

Daniela Holst


The project investigates the function of ground stone tools from selected Mesolithic sites.

Ground stone tools play a key role for reconstructions of subsistence, craft technologies, land use and settlement behaviour. This is especially true for the Mesolithic, when ground stone tools appear in large numbers and varieties. According to their find contexts and morphologies these stones seem to have been used for a wide range of activities, including food preparation, manufacturing of tools, as building material or heat conductor. Furthermore, ground stones have for the first time been deliberately modified into mace-heads or axes. Still, they receive little attention in Mesolithic research.

The project aims on reconstructions of the use history of ground stone tools from selected Mesolithic sites in Northern Germany. As case studies the find inventories from Duvensee, Friesack 4, Rothenklempenow 17 and Neustadt LA 156 (all Northern Germany) are analysed. These sites are distinguished by an excellent organic preservation and careful documentation. The analyses focus on quantitative reconstructions of the functions and the economy of ground stone tool use in the respective settlements and subsistence contexts.

Analyses include the identification of the raw materials selected and their properties, morphologies of stones and surfaces, use wear and possible residues, measuring of heating temperatures as well as experiments on tool use and heating. Intra-site spatial investigations contextualize the results.



High-resolution lab analyses are conducted in cooperation with TraCEr (Laboratory for Traceology and Controlled Experiments), MONREPOS/ Neuwied (https://monrepos.rgzm.de/en/tracer/):

3D-Scan of ground stone tool in the TraCEr lab with AICON smart SCAN-HE R8.

The stones have been recorded by 3D scans, executed with an AICON smart SCAN-HE R8 and edited with the GOM Inspect 2019 (Hotfix 8) software package. Thereby a digital archive of ground stones tools is build. Their metrics and morphologies can be analysed and quantitatively compared as well as the microtopographies of possible working surfaces.

The analyses and documentation of use wear and residues on the stones is conducted with the help of microscopes, including low and high resolutions.

3D scan of pitted stone from Friesack 4 (Brandenburg, Germany) with examples of use wear on abraded surfaces. Photos: 3D digital microscope Zeiss Smartzoom 5, magnification 300x (left) and 100x (right).

FTIR spectroscopic analyses proved successful in the identification of residues. It will furthermore help in the differentiation of heating temperatures of the stones, that have often been used in connection to fire.

Controlled experiments on tool use and heating form a further core area of the project. They will not only provide a reference collection on possible use wear traces but also focus on the economy of ground stone tool use.

For further information please contact Daniela Holst (d.holst@uni-koeln.de).