Stone tools

Harrison, Rodney (2010). Stone tools. In: Hicks, Dan and Beaudry, Mary C. eds. The Oxford Handbook of Material Culture Studies. Oxford Handbooks in Archaeology. Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp. 521–542.



This paper considers the contribution of interdisciplinary material culture studies to the study of stone tools. It argues for a new approach which foregrounds the role of the stone artefact after discard, suggesting that it is impossible to understand the meaning or efficacy of stone tools without understanding their afterlife in the social world of stone artefact makers and others after abandonment. Employing case studies derived from the fields of museum studies and heritage studies, it contends that the meaning and social role of a stone artefact changes throughout the course of its life history with each transformation in its use cycle, and most importantly, that stone artefacts continue to have social and material agency and do social ‘work’ even after they have been discarded. Although much of this chapter focuses on the materiality and meaning of stone artefacts in the modern world, these ideas also provide opportunities for a reconsideration of the materiality and meaning of stone artefacts in the past.

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