Continuous Modeling of Core Reduction: Lessons from Refitting Cores from WHS623x, an Upper Paleolithic Site in Jordan
The systematic production of usable flakes is often presented by lithic technologists as a rigid set of strategies or procedures to be followed in a step-by-step fashion. The quintessential example is the chaîne opératoire, developed by the French in the 1980s and widely applied today. An alternate view is that lithic reduction is a fluid behavioral set conditioned by an intimate familiarity with techniques and materials and tempered by environmental and situational circumstances. In an effort to address the ‘how’ and ‘why’ questions central to an epistemologically informed archaeology, and thus help lithic analysts from different research traditions better understand one another, we contrast models of discrete lithic reduction stages with those based on models of reduction continua. How we understand reduction influences how we interpret it. First, we summarize experimental data from North American bifacial reductions that can be modeled as continuous reduction processes using regression and principal components analyses. Then we apply these same methods to refitted cores from WHS 623x, an Upper Paleolithic site in west-central Jordan. The analysis shows that some aspects of lithic reduction are best modeled as continua, while others are better modeled as discrete. If reduction is continuous in some respects, it should be understood in continuous terms in those respects.