The analysis of stone tools using microscopy in order to interpret the function of the tools. This method involves the examination of the morphology of the tool, edge fractures caused by use (use wear) and the alteration of the stone surface caused by use, known as use wear polish.​

This method of analysis involves experimentation by making and using replicas of stone tools in order to record the use-wear from known functions (Fischer et al. 1984). This wear can then be compared with that found on archaeological material.

Pre-1980 use-wear analysis concentrated on edge fractures.

see low power use-wear analysis movie

Use-wear analysis in the 1980s concentrated on identifying polishes.



see high power use-wear analysis movie

Since then a new approach which standardises the methodology of analysis has been developed. This method involves the systematic recording of the functionally diagnostic attributes of a tool. These attributes are described using a standard vocabulary and the descriptions can be replicated enabling different analysts to describe the same tools in similar ways Grace 1989.

Correlations between the variables then allow the analyst to eliminate some of the possible functions of a tool until the most probable function is isolated. In some cases the elimination of possible functions leaves only one that is consistent with all the wear traces on the tool. ​ ​

This involves looking at a number of variables including information on the morphology of the worked edges, edge fractures and rounding and polish in terms of its distribution and development.​ ​

Matching of archeological use wear with experimental use wear is based on experience but recent developments in the use of expert systems (Grace 1993, Dries 1994), has made this process more objective which means that functional reconstructions which include the specific material the tool was used to work can be made with some confidence.​ ​

Use wear is not used simply to produce a list of tool functions but to approach such questions of subsistence strategy and spatial arrangements of activity areas on a site. This in turn can be used to examine social behavior. (Keeley 1980, Grace 1989, Juel Jensen 1988).

For a complete description of the history and development of Use Wear analysis see -

Interpreting the Function of Stone Tools by Roger Grace published as an ebook by

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also see ‘
Limitations and Applications of Use Wear Analysis