On bipolar reduction and splintered pieces

Michael Shott, The University of Akron


Objects variously called bipolar cores, pièces esquillées and other things are abundant in the record. Some interpret them as the exhausted remnants of bipolar reduction, others as wedges used with antler or bone. I propose that we call them "splintered pieces" to avoid functional connotations. Splintered pieces illustrate the problem of equifinality, different causes producing like consequences. A growing but uncertain consensus regards most splintered pieces as cores. Reviewing the latest expression of a different interpretation, I conclude that experimental, ethnographic, and archaeological data continue to support the view that most--not all--splintered pieces are cores. Nevertheless, the need remains urgent to search ethnographic accounts for support of the wedge view, to conduct further experiments, and to seek conclusive archaeological association of splintered pieces with wedging.