Milky Quartz Bipolar Reduction and Lithic Miniaturization: Experimental Results and Archaeological Implications

Justin Pargeter, Paloma de la Peña

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    We present experimental data examining the energetics and identification of axial bipolar reduction in contexts of lithic miniaturization on milky quartz. These experiments answer two specific questions. First, does bipolar reduction provide any benefits over freehand reduction? Second, can axial bipolar reduction be distinguished from freehand reduction? Our data show that bipolar reduction requires significantly less time to reduce a percentage unit of core mass and to produce a millimeter of cutting edge on milky quartz than freehand reduction. Milky quartz bipolar reduction surpasses even the cutting edge production efficiency of obsidian pressure blades. We outline a series of quantitative criteria for identifying bipolar cores and flakes. Our results show that bipolar cores and flakes can be distinguished from those produced using freehand reduction by quantifying platform crushing, distal flake rebound scars, bulb shearing, as well as axial, bipolar, and splintered flake terminations. Our results challenge the widely held perceptions about the wastefulness of bipolar reduction and provide clear guidelines for identifying this reduction strategy in archaeological milky quartz assemblages.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)551-565
    Number of pages15
    JournalJournal of Field Archaeology
    Issue number6
    StatePublished - Nov 2 2017


    • bipolar reduction
    • experimental archaeology
    • lithic miniaturization
    • milky quartz
    • stone age economics

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Archaeology
    • Archaeology


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