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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Open lithics : applying open source technologies to problems in lithic use wear experimentation and analysis Waber, Nicholas Hans


This dissertation presents and examines open-source methods and technologies for recording and quantifying aspects of gesture in lithic use experiments, as well as measuring and mapping edge damage on stone tools. It has three interrelated parts. The first presents two tools for quantifying components of gesture in lithic experiments: 1) OpenHaft, an electronic handle designed to measure and record the load exerted on a stone tool’s edge during use, and 2) cumulative stroke distance (CSD), to calculate the total volume of tool use during a task. An experiment using CSD and OpenHaft shows both distance and load to be major factors affecting wear on stone tools. The second part applies a suite of GIS (geographic information system) tools to precisely quantify and map “macrowear”—the chipping and flaking damage from tool use. 3D digital photogrammetry was used to produce digital surface models (DSM) of experimental microblades, that were compared using custom scripts for QGIS, yielding a precise record of the volume and location of material wear. This allows researchers to observe edge attrition throughout a tool’s use life. This is relevant to archaeological questions around tool design, curation, maintenance, and discard. The third part examines the viability of the QGIS edge wear analysis method on archaeological lithics based on an adaptation of Kuhn’s (1990) geometric index of unifacial reduction flaking (GIURF). To apply GIURF to archaeological lithics, it is necessary to virtually reconstruct the artifact in its pristine state, which this study attempts to do. Based on the experiment, GIS-automated GIURF does not yet virtually reconstruct worn lithics with enough accuracy for precise wear quantification, but successful reconstruction of some sections of worn microblades indicates promise for further development. OpenHaft/CSD and the QGIS wear quantification modules help lithic analysts to perform experiments with robust control over gesture variables, better defining what is a “stroke”, and precisely measure the effects of stroke variation on stone tools. The project applies the same GIS-based wear measurement methods to archaeological samples and offers a roadmap for future development. These open source techniques and technologies provide researchers with an accessible toolkit for better lithic experimentation and objective macrowear quantification and analysis.

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