Imported stone artifacts in a quarry context: The techno-economy of lithic industries from the Temiscouata (Québec) during the Woodland and the Early Historic period [Les artefacts importés dans un contexte de carrières: La techno-économie des...]

  • Patrick Eid Université de Montréal
Keywords: lithic technology; techno-economy; chaîne opératoire; exotic materials; Québec; First Nations; prehistory; archaeology


This article presents data on chipped stone techno-economic patterns of nomadic hunters-gatherers at a quarry source area in the Témiscouata region (Québec, Canada) during the Middle late Woodland (1500-1000 BP) and the Late Woodland (1000-450 BP) and also the early historic period (450-250 BP). Located in the hinterland of the Bas-Saint-Laurent, in the upper St-John river drainage, the Témiscouata region is rich of many common natural resources, but also by the presence of an important chert outcrop. The Touladi chert is present in two main quarries and is also found in pebbles forms scattered in the vicinity of the surrounding lakes and rivers. We applied a technological analysis, from the technological approach in the French tradition, on five lithic collections in the objectives to reconstruct the chaîne opératoires and their economic management patterns (techno-economy). This methodology was first applied on the local chert material and afterward on the exotic chipped stone artifacts in order to study the patterns that prevailed while hunters-gatherers were outside the quarries zone and also to understand the influence of the outcrops in the economics patterns.
The most prominent artifacts found is of course the numerous flakes which can be derive from three different chaînes opératoires: the bifacial process, the multidirectional (ad hoc) core reduction and the use of pièces esquillées. The production of bifacial tools is the most important process in Témiscouata lithic industries and is the one who produce most of the flakes found on prehistoric settlements. Core reduction sequence is unstandardized and is responsible for just a small part of the flakes product. The pièces esquillées process is only found on two sites and the flakes are generated unintentionally during the used of these artifacts. The tools assemblage is first characterized by the bifacial tools which are mostly manufactured on raw tabular blocks of chert. As for the flake tools, they are mostly represented by informal (ad hoc) tool (retouched and used flakes), endscrapers and pièces esquillées.
Techno-economics patterns on Touladi chert have demonstrated that most of the flake tools were made on flake blanks derived from the bifacial process, mostly from the early and middle stages of this chaîne opératoire. Bifacial process was also fractioned in time and space and we found that bifacial blanks and preforms were carried throughout the territory to be used as “cores”. The two other productions are quite secondary in respect of the small amount of tools manufactured and they are far less mobile than the first one.
Exotic materials show similar and different patterns than those observed on local chert. The bifacial process is still the dominant one and the most prominent way to make flake tools when the quarries are remote. Even then, they still use mostly flakes derived from early and intermediate stages of reduction. Core reduction is interesting because it shows different techno-economic patterns. Reduction sequences are more formal or at least more efficient than those observed on Touladi chert. For example, a small discoid core demonstrate a more complex reduction method which allows a greater ratio of flakes production compared to the multidirectional core processes used in the Témiscouta region. This is partly a consequence of the exotic raw materials used for cores, which is in the form of small pebbles. But it is also probably an adaptation of the core technology in the purpose of making it more efficient and more productive when knappers were away from lithic sources. However, the use of core technologies was probably a second choice, mostly adopted when the raw material did not allow the manufacture of bifacial tools. Bifaces used as cores seem to have prevailed when it was possible to do so. As for the pièces esquillées, they do not seem to have played an important part in tool fabrication in context of raw material scarcity.
Another interesting aspect of tools manufacturing with exotic materials is the behavior of carrying flake blanks. Every site shows numerous flake blanks, imported and discarded unused, a behavior which reveals that the prehistoric groups were carrying more flakes than their real needs. Conversely of the curated bifacial tools, which were discarded in quarry zone only if their economic threshold was reach (fractures, size too small, inadequate morphology, knapping accidents, etc.), flake tools and flake blanks were mostly discarded at workshop sites in a gearing up strategy. The results demonstrate also that all the flake tools were not managed in the same ways. Endscrappers, unlike the other flake tools, show some evidences of curation, but not as important as bifacial tools. Since they are discarded less quickly than the ad hoc tool and pièces esquillées, this behavior explain probably why the imported endscrappers are found in greater amount at the Témiscouata sites.
The technological analysis shows empiric evidences that hunter-gatherers of the Témiscouata adopted flexible and simple, yet very efficient, techno-economical strategies. These management schemes, which use bifacial chaîne opératoire as the central element of the tool manufacturing, seem well adapted to their way of life based on a generalist, seasonal and flexible subsistence economy. Exotic artifacts, even if they represent a small part of the archaeological record, can reveal important aspects of the organization of past stone tool technologies.

Author Biography

Patrick Eid, Université de Montréal

Université de Montréal

How to Cite
Eid, P. (2017). Imported stone artifacts in a quarry context: The techno-economy of lithic industries from the Temiscouata (Québec) during the Woodland and the Early Historic period [Les artefacts importés dans un contexte de carrières: La techno-économie des.]. Journal of Lithic Studies, 4(2), 181-230.