My interests in ancient technology and craft specialization include a focus on lithic artifacts. Several of my research projects have investigated aspects of lithic tool production and use. These projects range in time period from the Late Archaic (2700-1800 BC) to Postclassic (AD 900-1500) periods, and include projects at Tlacuachero (Chiapas, Mexico), San Estevan (Belize), and Mayapan (Yucatan, Mexico), as well as Jovel Valley lithic assemblages from projects under my direction.
An interest in lithic analysis also informs my teaching. My Ancient Technology course features flintknapping, butchering using stone tools, use-wear analysis, projectile point hafting, dart construction, and atlatl use. The course engages students with a wide variety of experimental archaeology techniques which can inform future analyses of lithic assemblages. Students in the class have also developed experimental research projects for their final assignment, including the replication of Alaskan microblade tools.
Tlacuachero, Chiapas, Mexico
The analysis of an assemblage from the Tlacuachero shell mound site (Barbara Voorhies, Dir.) focuses on the nature and use of lithic tools at the site, as well as temporal and spatial comparisons with assemblages from other Archaic and Formative period sites in southeast Mesoamerica. The assemblage of ignimbrite, obsidian, and quartz chipped stone artifacts dates to the Late Archaic Chantuto B phase (2700-1800 B.C.), and is one of the earliest chipped stone tool assemblages documented on the Soconusco coast of Chiapas, Mexico. The results of the analysis support previous studies of the chipped stone technology of the shell mound users during this period that have emphasized the predominance of bipolar percussion technology and the use of relatively local chipped stone sources. Microscopic edge analysis suggests that some of the lithic artifacts were used to cut soft materials, as in animal processing, while others were used to modify hard materials, such as wood or bone.
Paris, Elizabeth H. Early Use of Chipped Stone at Tlacuachero. 2015. In An Archaic Mexican Shellmound and its Entombed Floors, Barbara Voorhies, editor and principal author, pp. 127-143. Cotsen Institute of Archaeology Press, University of California, Los Angeles.
San Estevan, Belize
The analysis of lithic assemblages at the Formative Period site of San Estevan, Belize (Robert Rosenswig and Douglas Kennett, Dirs.), focuses on the nature of the exchange relationships between San Estevan and neighboring sites, particularly with the specialized lithic tool-producing center of Colha. However, rather than importing all of its tools and materials from Colha, as occurred at other nearby sites during later time periods, a wide range of production and consumption activities took place at San Estevan itself. Lithic production activities ranged from testing raw nodules of chert and chalcedony, to tool manufacture, use, recycling and discard of exhausted tools. Many of the formal tool types are similar, but not identical to those found in contemporaneous deposits at Colha, Cuello, Cerros, K’axob and Pulltrouser Swamp in form and manufacturing techniques. This suggests the integration of economic and social networks, and a fluid, dynamic exchange of tool types and manufacturing techniques. The analysis also considers informal tool use and the recycling of formal tools at the site.
Mayapan, Yucatan, Mexico
The analysis of lithic flake assemblages at Mayapan (Masson, Peraza Lope and Hare, Dirs.) in collaboration with Elizabeth France and Jonathan White focuses on the organization of lithic tool production at the site, with comparisons to the organization of shell ornament production. Our results suggested that Mayapan flintknappers imported large quantities lithic preforms and prepared cores for onsite production, rather than carrying out primary reduction activities at the site itself. Multicrafting was common in specialist households and workshops, with evidence for the production of multiple craft items, including specialists in both shell and lithic tool production.
France, Elizabeth L., Elizabeth H. Paris, and Jonathan M. White. Chapter 14: Delving into Debitage: The Spatial Distribution and Scalar Variation of Lithic and Shell Production at Mayapan Houselots. In Settlement, Economy, and Society at a Postclassic Maya City: Mayapan, Yucatan, Mexico, edited by Marilyn A. Masson, Timothy S. Hare, Carlos Peraza Lope, and Bradley W. Russell. Forthcoming.