Where were the hearths: an experimental investigation of the archaeological signature of prehistoric fire technology in the alluvial gravels of the Southern Plains

Paul N. Backhouse, Eileen Johnson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

20 Scopus citations

Abstract

The interpretation that a rock has been subjected to cultural utilization is a basic element of hunter-gatherer research. The fracture mechanics of the flaked stone tool production process are well understood and the material residues are routinely identified during fieldwork. Conversely, non-percussion processes such as hot-rock technology, which can result in rock fracture, are less well understood. An experimental study has been developed to examine the fractured gravels observed at a prehistoric site on the Southern Plains (USA). The experiment has sought to determine whether cultural or natural agencies were responsible for the production of the angularly fractured rocks. The positive results of the experiment indicate that not only were humans most likely responsible for the breakages, but also that the fractured rocks often exhibit distinctive morphologies that may be identified during fieldwork. This simple experimental methodology is applicable to other hunter-gatherer sites where the depositional environment is not conducive to the structural preservation of features such as hearths.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1367-1378
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Archaeological Science
Volume34
Issue number9
DOIs
StatePublished - Sep 2007

Keywords

  • Experiment
  • Hot-rock technology
  • Ogallala Formation
  • Southern Plains

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