Changes in Stone Tool Technology

By: Robert J. Austin

From chert to stone, tools evolved to reflect changing resources.

Florida's native people used chert to make a wide variety of tools. Because this flint-like rock is durable, chert tools and the waste flakes that result from their manufacture are common artifacts in Florida.

When people arrived here at the end of the last Ice Age, their stone technology was already quite advanced. Their tool kit included large, lance-shaped spear points designed for hunting large mammals, as well as knives, an assortment of scraping and wood-working tools, small drills and gravers, implements used to engrave leather and stone.

When large Pleistocene mammals died out around 9,000 years ago, people focused on hunting deer and other small game, fishing and collecting plants. Their stone tools changed too, becoming smaller, less specialized and suited to a mobile lifestyle. Stemmed bifaces (stone chipped or flaked on both sides and having a stem at the base) were used as hunting implements, knives and scrapers. Flakes from tool manufacture were used more often when convenient and practical, replacing large scrapers and choppers. As people expanded into new territories, high-quality chert was less available, but tool makers learned that slowly heating stone improved its flaking qualities, and heat treatment became widely practiced.

About 1,000 years ago, the bow-and-arrow emerged as a primary hunting implement with the arrows tipped with small triangular points. After this time, stone tools that were used to drill, cut and engrave shell, bone and wood were common. In southern and eastern Florida, where chert is not available, shell and shark teeth were used. Chert was still considered valuable, however, and was often obtained through trade.

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