Polished edges of archaeological stone tools are commonly investigated to obtain information on the tools’ uses in prehistory. Yet to this day, it remains unclear what exactly such polishes are and how they form. Answering these questions should allow the elaboration of new interpretative methods based on objective measurements. Two major competing hypotheses of polish formation have been proposed: abrasion and the formation of a thin amorphous film on the chert or flint surface. We employ reflectance infrared spectroscopy, a technique particularly sensitive to thin amorphous films, to investigate these two hypotheses. We found no added amorphous layer that would have formed upon friction against bone, antler, ivory or wood. Our observations suggest polish formation by abrasion, notwithstanding previous claims of added amorphous surface structures. This has implications for our understanding of the physical processes taking place during friction of chert and flint against different materials. Our results also open the possibility to propose new pathways for identifying different use-wear processes, based on the degree of abrasion.
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