Raw material quality and prepared core technologies in Northeast Asia

P. Jeffrey Brantingham, John W. Olsen, Jason A. Rech, Andrei I. Krivoshapkin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

104 Scopus citations


The design and assembly of lithic toolkits is mediated by a number of factors including the abundance and quality of raw materials available. In general, low raw material abundance and high raw material quality are thought to lead to formal tool designs, whereas high raw material abundance and low raw material quality lead to informal designs. Low raw material quality is seen as the overriding factor producing informal tool designs, even where low raw material abundance would favour formal designs. In North China, the predominance of simple flake and core technologies, based on relatively poor quality raw materials, and the near absence of sophisticated prepared core technologies seems to corroborate the importance of raw material quality in toolkit design. Recent studies of a late Pleistocene lithic assemblage from the Lower Grotto at Tsagaan Agui cave, Mongolia, suggest however that raw material quality is not an absolute constraint on the development of sophisticated core reduction strategies. Levallois-like and other prepared core forms based on large flake blanks are conspicuous in the Lower Grotto assemblage, despite the poor quality of raw material available at the site. Contrary to expectations, these core forms appear to have developed directly in response to poor raw material quality. The implication is that raw material quality alone cannot explain the apparent technological simplicity of the North Chinese Middle and Upper Paleolithic. (C) 2000 Academic Press.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)255-271
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Archaeological Science
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2000


  • Archaeology
  • China
  • Middle paleolithic
  • Mongolia
  • Raw material quality
  • Technological design

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Archaeology
  • Archaeology


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