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A Journey to a New Land

Hunt Caribou

Prehistoric Stone Tools

For thousands of years before metals were discovered, humans made tools from stone and animal bone. They knew how to choose the best type of rock for each tool, and how to manufacture the tool so that it had a sharp edge for cutting and scraping, or a sharp point for piercing.

The toolmakers would begin by choosing a stone of the right shape and material for the tool they planned to make. Then they shaped the tool by chipping flakes from the stone with a hammerstone or a piece of bone. Sometimes the removed flakes were used as tools. The examples shown here demonstrate the high level of workmanship and skill that was needed to manufacture stone tools.

Large Quartzite Biface

Large Quartzite Biface

This tool is called a biface because it has been flaked on both faces of the rock. It is made from quartzite rock, which is hard and durable. This tool was found at the Charlie Lake Cave site and is about 10,500 years old. This type of tool was probably used for chopping or butchering.

Leaf-shaped Biface

Leaf-shaped Biface

Toolmakers had to make many decisions when creating a tool. They had to decide on the shape of the tool, and then choose the best raw material. They also had to decide which tools to use to create the desired shape.

Notice the tiny scars that mark the places where flakes were removed during the creation of this leaf-shaped biface.

Clovis Spear Point

Clovis Spear Point

The Clovis point is a distinctive tool that has been found in archaeological sites across the central and southern United States, dating to about 11,500 years ago. This example came from a site in Nevada.

The small "flute" or channel running up the centre of the tool from the base likely made it easier to attach the point to a shaft.

Obsidian Microblade

Obsidian Microblade

This very small tool is made of obsidian and is called a microblade. Microblades usually measure between about 5-11 mm in width and 15 – 45 mm in length.

Obsidian Microblade

Obsidian Microblade

Toolmakers often used microblades to form composite tools. For example, a harpoon could be fashioned by inserting several microblades into a groove cut in a length of bone or wood.

Obsidian Core

Obsidian Core

This is an obsidian core – it is the piece of rock from which microblades were formed. The marks on the core show where the blades were removed.

Obsidian Core

Obsidian Core

This obsidian core was used to produce long, thin microblades.

Folsom Point

Folsom Point

This is a replica of a type of spear point known as a Folsom Point. Folsom points have been found in many archaeological sites in North America. They are smaller than Clovis points and date to about 11,000 years ago.

Spearthrower Weight

Spearthrower Weight

Stone weights were often attached to spear throwers to increase the power and speed of the spear or dart.

Fishing Weight

Fishing Weight

This fishing weight, made by drilling a hole in a rock, was used to weigh down fishing lines and nets.