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The Design and Use of Paleoindian Unifaces of the Gainey Phase in the Lower Great Lakes Region

Dr. Mark F. Seeman of Kent State University and with the support of the National Science Foundation will conduct an archaeological investigation of the relationships that link tool design and tool use within early Paleoindian societies. The specific focus will be on the stone tool assemblage from the Nobles Pond site (33ST357), Stark Co., Ohio. Nobles Pond pertains to the Gainey phase of the Midwest and is one of the largest Early Paleoindian sites in eastern North America ca. 11,200-10,800 B.P. Gainey phase Paleoindians were the earliest known human populations in the lower Great Lakes area. They were resilient, "high-technology foragers" in that they employed portable, but complexly designed tools with long use-lives and with strong potentialities for salvage and recycling. They also were among the most mobile populations on earth. To the extent that the Paleoindians that occupied Nobles Pond lie at one extreme of the residential strategies characterizing human groups, they provide a useful context for studying technological organization. Here the design/utility relationship of the toolkit should be under conditions of intense selection as colonizing foragers occupy new and dynamic landscapes. In order to investigate this question in controlled fashion, the focus will be on formal unifacial tools, specifically hafted end scrapers. <br/><br/>The Nobles Pond excavation has yielded over 1,800 hafted end scrapers, the largest known Paleoindian site sample. In this study, representative tools will be selected from two different kinds of site contexts and will be compared with modern facsimiles used under experimental conditions, combining insights of both the archaeologist and the physicist. The study addresses three main questions. 1) How much of the formal variation in observable morphology can be explained by the use, breakage, depletion, recycling, and salvage of a single class of designed tools? 2) How well do particular patterns of wear on Nobles Pond tools correlate with particular states of depletion or other use-life conditions? 3) How well do particular patterns of wear correlate with depletion or other use-life conditions on similar, but experimentally produced and utilized tools? <br/><br/>The broad-scale advantages to this study lie in the ability to bring the results of analyses of form, wear, and experimentation together in a single research program applied to a large sample. The targeted design/use relationship is important to archaeology and is a key question in the examination of all technological systems, ultimately bearing on such larger constructs as adaptive optimization, depth of planning, and risk minimization. It also should be recognized that the Nobles Pond excavation was a community effort, with over 2,000 adult volunteers participating in the excavation. This analytical project will allow the continuation of a regional connection to what has become an important archaeological touchstone through the continued involvement of local volunteers in a scientific laboratory program at a university in their own community. This project further marks the first collaboration between archaeology and physics at Kent State University, and it is one that can be built on to investigate the process of wear at multiple scales in the future. Hafted end scrapers are the most numerous formal tools in Early Paleoindian contexts, and their study can provide strong insights into the survival strategies of the many foraging societies that occupied the majority of our collective past.

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