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Flint Knapper at Work

Flint Knapper at Work

Travis Shinabarger
Definition: Debitage is the collective term used by archaeologists to refer to the sharp-edged waste material left over when someone creates a stone tool (knaps flint). Some of the waste flakes may be used as tools themselves, as expedient scrapers for example, but by and large the word debitage refers to those pieces which have not been utilized.

Studies of debitage as part of lithic analyses are frequently completed using mass analysis techniques, which can include size grading (using a set of graduated screens to sort debitage by size), weighing and counting the flakes recovered from a particular site or provenience within a site to estimate types of flaking activities. Other types of analysis include a careful piece-plotting of the distribution of debitage: if a site has not been disturbed the scatter pattern of waste flakes might tell you about flint-working activities. As a parallel study, experimental reproduction of flint knapping activities are also common, as illustrated in this photograph.

For More Information

Baker, Tony. 2006. The Flake: Stepchild of Lithic Analysis.

Healan, Dan M. 1995 Identifying lithic reduction loci with size-graded macrodebitage: A multivariate approach. American Antiquity 60(4):686-699.

Hiscock, Peter 2002 Quantifying the size of artefact assemblages. Journal of Archaeological Science 29:251-258.

Kvamme, Kenneth L. 1997 Patterns and models of debitage dispersal in percussion flaking. Lithic Technology 22(2):122-138.

Prentiss, William C. 1998 The reliability and validity of a lithic debitage typology: Implications for archaeological interpretation. American Antiquity 63(4):635-650.

Shott, Michael J. 1994 Size and form in the analysis of flake debris: Review and recent approaches. Journal of Archaeological Method and Theory 1(1):69-110.

Also Known As: Flakes, waste flakes, stone chips, chipping debris, lithic waste flakes

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