Lithic (or stone) was used in prehistory to manufacture a variety of tools, including projectile points, knives, scrapers, axes, hoes manos, and hammerstones. The lithic material could either be chipped or flaked, or ground. Chipped stone artifacts are primarily manufactured from chert, quartzite, or obsidian. Knowing the source location of these materials helps archaeologists better understand the movement of people, the value placed on certain materials, and the relationship between the raw material and the finished product. Some lithic raw material was preferred over other types resulting in the exotic materials being traded, sometimes over long distances.
The Archaeology Division maintains an impressive collection of over 700 comparative cherts that represent various raw materials found throughout the Great Plains. These collections are used to help identify the source of a lithic artifact recovered during excavation.
Distribution of primary lithic resources in the Great Plains
(courtesy of Janice McLean)