Discerning use-related micro-residues on tools: Testing the multi-stranded approach for archaeological studies

Geeske H.J. Langejans*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

46 Citations (Scopus)


In this paper I explore how post-depositional contaminants and non-use related ancient residues may be distinguished from use-related residues directly associated with the application of ancient artefacts. It is assumed that contaminant and unintentional remains have a random distribution over a tool's surface. Preserved use-related residues, however, are expected to have a consistent spatial distribution around a working edge. To test this, residues on used and unused experimental flakes were recorded after they underwent weathering. The surfaces of the experimental flakes were divided in four quadrants, of roughly equal size. The surface coverage of the residue types per quadrant was then recorded. On used flakes with well preserved residues, the use-related residues are more abundant on portions associated with the sharp edge than on portions associated with blunt sides. On the samples without identified use-related remains and on the unused sample, the distribution of micro-remains is more uniform. This study confirms that by using a contextual approach it is possible to distinguish use-related remains from non-use-related and co-incidental remains.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)985-1000
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Archaeological Science
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2011
Externally publishedYes


  • Contaminants
  • Experimental archaeology
  • Micro-remains
  • Multi-stranded and contextual approach
  • Residue analysis

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