A unified lithic taxonomy based on patterns of core reduction

Journal Article


Journal Title

South African Archaeological Bulletin

Journal ISSN
Volume Title

South African Archaeological Society


University of Cape Town

The authors and three students met for workshops on several occasions in Cape Town and Stellenbosch with the goal of defining a taxonomic system for chipped stone artefacts that can be applied to materials from the Early, Middle and Later Stone Age. The motivation for defining a 'unified taxonomy' stems from the need to develop a system for classifying multicomponent surface assemblages. The proposed taxonomy revises southern African systems by applying ideas and methods from European approaches to lithic technology. Given that much confusion exists on the classification of cores and core reduction, the lithic workshops focused on this class of artefact. Most of the variation encountered when examining material from Anyskop, Blombos, Geelbek, Hollow Rock Shelter and Klasies River Mouth could be placed within the taxa of Inclined, Parallel and Platform cores. These categories form the basis of the proposed taxonomy with the additional taxa of Initial, Multidirectional, Indeterminate Broken, Bipolar and Other being necessary for a small proportion of the cores that fall outside the range of the three main taxa. Blind tests using assemblages of cores from Blombos, Geelbek and Anyskop yielded a satisfactory degree of reproducibility and lend credibility to the proposed taxonomy. This paper also considers other key variables of cores including: the morphology of end products, degree of reduction, numbers of striking and removal surfaces, and degree of platform preparation.