In a recent publication in the journal AntiquityJustin Pargeter (a Postdoctoral researcher with Emory University’s Anthropology Department) argues the motivations of prehistoric hunter-gatherers for selecting particular rocks for toolmaking are often explained in too rigidly functional or symbolic terms. By examining the exploitation of crystal quartz at two archaeological sites (Ntloana Tšoana and Sehonghong) in Lesotho, southern Africa, he and his co-author Jamie Hampson (University of Exeter) reveal that stone tool production required a form of engagement unique to crystal quartz’s specific properties (including possibly quartz crystal’s piezoelectric effects). The prefered use of quartz crystals—irrespective of the availability of other rocks for tool production—demonstrates agency and variability in the prehistoric technologies.

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