Visit Your Local PBS Station PBS Home PBS Home Programs A-Z TV Schedules Watch Video Donate Shop PBS Search PBS
NOVA Home Find out what's coming up on air Listing of previous NOVA Web sites NOVA's history Subscribe to the NOVA bulletin Lesson plans and more for teachers NOVA RSS feeds Tell us what you think Program transcripts Buy NOVA videos or DVDs Watch NOVA programs online Answers to frequently asked questions

Stone Age Toolkit


Stone Age homepage

Blade Core

 

Blade Core
This artifact was used to provide stone blades.

Blade cores provided a portable source of stone or obsidian for manufacturing different kinds of tools by flaking off pieces from the core. The basis of many Upper Paleolithic tool forms from both the Old and New Worlds was the blade flake, a thin, parallel-sided flake that is at least twice as long as it is wide. Blade flakes were "pre-forms" that could be fashioned into knives, hide scrapers, spear tips, drills, and other tools.



End Scraper

 

End Scraper
This artifact was used for scraping fur from animal hides.

For European and American Stone Age peoples, end scrapers served as heavy- duty scraping tools that could have been used on animal hides, wood, or bones. Once the hide was removed from an animal, an end scraper could take the hair off the skin's outer layer and remove the fatty tissue from its underside. End scrapers were sometimes hafted, or attached to a wooden handle, but could also be handheld.



Burin

 

Burin
This artifact was used for carving bone, antler, or wood.

Burins are among the oldest stone tools, dating back more than 50,000 years, and are characteristic of Upper Paleolithic cultures in both Europe and the Americas. Burins exhibit a feature called a burin spall—a sharp, angled point formed when a small flake is struck obliquely from the edge of a larger stone flake. These tools could have been used with or without a wooden handle.



Awl

 

Awl
This artifact was used for shredding plant fibers.

Awls were small, pointed hand tools employed in both the Old and New World to slice fibers for thread and fishing nets, and to punch holes in leather and wood. Stone Age peoples may also have sliced animal hides to make clothing using awls. These tools could be made from stone or bone and were highly sharpened for maximum efficiency.



Antler Harpoon

 

Antler Harpoon
This artifact was used for hunting large marine animals.

Upper Paleolithic cultures in Europe between 20,000 and 10,000 years ago hunted seals, whales, and even swimming land mammals such as reindeer using antler harpoons. In the New World, these harpoons appeared only around 6,000 years ago in the arctic cultures of Alaska and Canada. Experts believe antler harpoons were used in tandem with wooden launchers known as atlatls to help the harpoon penetrate prey with more force.



Clovis Point

 

Clovis Point
This artifact was used for killing mammoths and other megafauna.

Clovis refers to this particular style of stone spear point and to the culture of the North American people who used such weapons to devastating effect against large game. Clovis points are leaf-shaped and have a wide groove, or flute, on both sides of the base for fitting into short wooden or bone spear shafts. The largest spear point ever found, measuring nine inches long, was a Clovis point made of chalcedony, a kind of quartz.



Bone Flute

 

Bone Flute
This artifact was used for playing music.

Made of bone, this wind instrument dates to around 14,000 years ago in France. Hunters may have carried such flute-like instruments in their mobile toolkits or been buried with them, perhaps for the afterlife. Other artistic relics of Stone Age peoples, especially in the Old World, include carved figurines, cave paintings, and beaded clothing. France's Solutrean culture of 23,000 to 18,000 years ago is noted for its artistic tradition.



Beads

 

Beads
This artifact was used for personal ornamentation.

It's impossible to know definitively, but experts think beads made of bone, ivory, shells, and teeth were decorative and might also have been traded as currency, based on what they know about the cultures of contemporary native peoples. They have unearthed necklaces, pendants, bracelets, and anklets at Stone Age weapons caches and burial sites in Europe and the Americas.



Needle

 

Needle
This artifact was used for stitching hides.

Stone Age technology included delicate sewing needles made of bone with punched eyeholes. They were probably used in tandem with thread fashioned from plant fibers or animal sinew. Archeologists have found bone needles dating to within the past 20,000 years in Europe and North America, where they might have facilitated clothing and boat production.



Bone Point

 

Bone Point
This tool was used for launching at animals during hunting.

Bone projectile points were flexible, light, general-purpose weapons for hunting large land animals. To be as lethal as possible, their tips were chiseled to exquisite sharpness. This is a North American point, but bone points hafted onto wooden or bone handles were also common in the Stone Age Old World. A deep groove cuts into the base of the point, where a hunter would have inserted a wooden thrower and secured it with resin.



Back to top




America's Stone Age Explorers
End of the Big Beasts

End of the Big Beasts
Who or what snuffed out the megafauna 11,000 years ago?

The Fenn Cache

The Fenn Cache
View the artistry and skill that went into 10 exquisite Clovis stone tools.

Before Clovis

Before Clovis
Evidence for Americans earlier than Clovis people keeps turning up.

Stone Age Toolkit

Stone Age Toolkit
Try your hand at using 10 different types of ancient stone tool.



Send Feedback Image Credits
   
NOVA Home Find out what's coming up on air Listing of previous NOVA Web sites NOVA's history Subscribe to the NOVA bulletin Lesson plans and more for teachers NOVA RSS feeds Tell us what you think Program transcripts Buy NOVA videos or DVDs Watch NOVA programs online Answers to frequently asked questions

Support provided by

For new content
visit the redesigned
NOVA site