Evaluating rudimentary prehistoric stone artifacts from the American southwest and Mexico

Keywords: American Southwest; Mexico; prehistoric agricultural implements; lithic technology; subsistence system technology.


The goals and background of this study are presented. A sample of rudimentary artifacts, recovered through survey and excavation from contexts in the American Southwest and southern Mexico, were physically examined to verify or reject their assumed validity as tools and their use in agricultural activities. Macroscopic and microscopic examinations were undertaken on these often overlooked and misidentified artifacts to ascertain evidence of human manufacture and use-wear. The results of the study indicate the specimens represent three general form categories of tools that have uses related to excavation and earth moving. To augment this evidence, information was gathered regarding find contexts, historic records, and from relevant literature. The geographic find locations and contexts of the artifacts, as well as their temporal placement, and likely group affiliations, are then discussed. Evidence indicates that, although probably used for other purposes, these minimally-retouched, hand-held, digging and earth moving tools were used in the preparation and maintenance of agricultural fields and irrigation canals, and functioned to support the subsistence system from ca. 400-1450 CE. These implements evidently also held social and ceremonial values and functions. The rudimentary nature of these tools is often found not to be commensurate with the sophisticated complexity of the associated agricultural infrastructure. Initial, very tentative, hypotheses are presented for this incongruity.

Author Biographies

James A. Neely, University of Texas at Austin (Retired)

Department of Anthropology
University of Texas at Austin
41 Mission Circle, Alamogordo
New Mexico 88310

Arizona State Museum
University of Arizona
Tucson, Arizona, 85721

Steve A. Tomka, Raba Kistner Environmental, Inc.

Director of Cultural Resources Program
Raba Kistner Environmental Inc.
12821 W Golden Ln, San Antonio
Texas 78249


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How to Cite
Neely, J., & Tomka, S. (2022). Evaluating rudimentary prehistoric stone artifacts from the American southwest and Mexico. Journal of Lithic Studies, 9(1), 32 p. https://doi.org/10.2218/jls.4332
Research Articles