The aboriginal exploitation of Cuesta Quartzite in Southern New Jersey

Mounier, Robert Alan (2008) The aboriginal exploitation of Cuesta Quartzite in Southern New Jersey. Doctoral (PhD) thesis, Memorial University of Newfoundland.

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Abstract

This thesis explores the aboriginal exploitation of Cuesta quartzite in southern New Jersey. The stone is an orthoquartzite, a silica-cemented quartzite that was formed at or near the earth's surface. The geological distribution of this material coincides with the Cuesta, the geomorphological ridge that separates the Inner and Outer Coastal Plains of New Jersey. Cuesta quartzite takes its name from this association. Although the material is very difficult to knap, it was extensively used in prehistory, principally for stemmed and notched bifaces, but also for hammerstones. Repetitive heat-treatment improves its flaking qualities and enabled ancient knappers to work the stone according to a staged sequence of bifacial reduction. When used as hammerstones, Cuesta quartzite was also repeatedly heated, with the apparent goal of modifying its toughness so as to customize the hammers to the stone being worked. In addition to affecting its toughness, heating the stone tends to redden it, to add luster, and to cause the entrapped quartz grains to sparkle, all of which had probable symbolic significance. The research employed experiments to gauge the effects of heat on the stone. Four skilled experimental knappers also flaked matched pairs of bifaces-consisting of one heated and one unheated specimen - to evaluate the knapping characteristics before and after thermal alteration. In all cases, the knappers reported improvement in the ease of flaking after heating. X-ray fluorescence analysis and laser ablation microprobe-inductively coupled plasma mass-spectrometry establish the geochemical composition of the material. The quartzite consists chiefly of silica with a host of other minerals and trace elements. The petrological analysis does not permit linking archaeological specimens to particular geological deposits. A battery of radiocarbon dates places the utilization of Cuesta quartzite between 6600 and 1600 B.P. Using the chaîne opératoire approach as its theoretical basis, this thesis integrates archaeological data and experimental results to reconstruct the aboriginal technology associated with the use of Cuesta quartzite during the period of its efflorescence. The analysis leads to the conclusion that both the ascendancy and decline of Cuesta quartzite as a lithic resource were fundamentally economic adaptations to a changing landscape. This thesis further highlights the benefits of collections research, archaeological investigations in the field of cultural resource management, and replicative experimentation. The work marks an advance in knowledge respecting a widely used but heretofore little studied lithic material.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral (PhD))
URI: http://research.library.mun.ca/id/eprint/11089
Item ID: 11089
Additional Information: Includes bibliographical references (leaves 388-435).
Department(s): Humanities and Social Sciences, Faculty of > Anthropology
Date: 2008
Date Type: Submission
Library of Congress Subject Heading: Cuestas--New Jersey; Excavations (Archaeology)--New Jersey; Quartzite--New Jersey.

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