Retrieve a novel: new multi-scale surface texture analysis of ground stone tools (REVEAL)

Stone implements have been used since the early stages of humankind as tools for processing different resources, one of the most direct actions being pounding and grinding. Identifying the function(s) of this kind of tools, namely ground stone tools and distinguishing them from manuports is not a simple task when analysed with conventional approach. Therefore, they are underrepresented in the archaeological record and poorly studied also due to methodological constraints, e.g. heuristic requirements, equipment availability, and time restraints. This project aims to set up an investigative approach for the comprehension of ground stone tools' function and the processes in which they were involved, in order to REVEAL the artefacts complex biography.

The designed research considers macro, micro and nano-scales techniques to be applied to surface texture analysis, and for the identification of associated putative use-related biogenic residues. The study is focusing on a representative samples of ground stones selected among Early Upper Palaeolithic sites of the Pontic Steppe zone dating back to 40-30 kyr Cal BP. The case study - Brinzeni I, a cave in north-west Moldova, which occupations began during the Aurignacian - is relevant when investigating nutritional habits at the dawn of Anatomically Modern Humans emergence in Eurasia.

The integrated methodological approach will be tested on replicative experiments to be then compared with the wear-traces occurring on the Paleolithic ground stones. The study of the surface of the archaeological and experimental ground stone tools is inspired by the principles of Tribology and involve a multi-scale heuristic: photogrammetry and digital replicas at macro level, optical and digital microscopy at micro scale, and the application of nanoscale analyses like SEM and profilometer is the core of the texture investigation. The acquired data are characterized by the integration of qualitative and numerical approaches. Setting up a convenient strategy for data-collection and combining the information acquired through the various steps of this multi-scale approach to surface texture analysis, is one of the challenging aspects of this project.


G. Sorrentino, "La superficie degli utensili di pietra rivela la lunga strada verso... la pizza", Frida: Forum della Ricerca di Ateneo (2021)

G. Sorrentino et al., "Replicate plant processing REVEALs ground stones complex biography", EXARC, EAC12, YouTube video (2021)