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Journal of Archaeological Science (2000) 27, 877894

doi:10.1006/jasc.1999.0499, available online at http://www.idealibrary.com on

Flake Size from Platform Attributes: Predictive and Empirical

Michael J. Shott
Department of Sociology, Anthropology and Criminology, University of Northern Iowa, Cedar Falls,
IA 50614-0513, U.S.A.

Andrew P. Bradbury
Cultural Resource Analysts, Inc., 143 Walton Ave., Lexington, KY 40508, U.S.A.

Philip J. Carr
Department of Sociology and Anthropology, HUMB 34, University of South Alabama, Mobile, AL 36688-0002,

George H. Odell
Department of Anthropology, University of Tulsa, Tulsa, OK 74104, U.S.A.

(Received 26 May 1999, revised manuscript accepted 16 September 1999)

Dierences between tools original and discarded sizes bear on classification, curation and other interpretive issues in
Palaeolithic archaeology. Recent experiments demonstrated significant relationships between platform size and original
flake size but also generated controversy about the relative importance of empirical and theoretical platform variables
in determining flake size. Depending on the nature and strength of the relationships, original size might be calculated
from platform variables, often retained in discarded tools. We examine the platformflake relationship in Pelcins
controlled data and two replicated assemblages. As Pelcin suggested, theoretical platform variables predict flake size
only with stringent assumptions. Empirically, log-size regresses consistently upon log-platform size in hard-hammer but
not in soft-hammer flakes. A universal relationship between variables exists in the assemblages, but only in
hard-hammer flakes which, in any case, were more likely to be used as tools.  2000 Academic Press


Introduction forms, we can measure curation and calibrate use life.

Knowing these quantities, we can better interpret stone

s stone is a reductive medium, stone tools are tool assemblages.
progressively reduced during use. Changes in Dibble & Whittaker (1981) detected a relationship
tool size and form from reduction have obvious between flake platform variables, on the one hand,
implications for classification and other purposes. and flake mass on the other. Dibble & Pelcin (1995)
Original size and shape cannot always be known from extended this research and identified platform thick-
the reduced specimen discarded to enter into the ness especially as a determinant of flake size. They
record. This is regrettable, but reduction gives infor- presented an equation that predicted flake mass from
mation as well as taking it, if the information can be platform variables. Many discarded flake tools retain
retrieved. Broadly, amount of reduction registers those variables, permitting estimation of original mass
amount of use, an approximate measure of both use despite reduction. Dibble and Pelcin also showed that
life and curation, an important theoretical concept hammer mass and velocity and striking angle did not
(Binford, 1973; Shott, 1996). If we can determine tools greatly influence flake size. This is encouraging because
original sizes from remnant properties of their reduced these quantities cannot be known either from the
03054403/00/100877+18 $35.00/0  2000 Academic Press
878 M. J. Shott et al.

original or from the reduced specimen. If they have Theoretical platform

little eect, they can be ignored. Pelcin (1996) further thickness
refined our understanding of the relationship between Existing platform
platform variables and flake size. thickness
Recent studies both question and defend this
research (Davis & Shea, 1998; Dibble, 1998; Pelcin,
1998). As a result, uncertainty remains about the
relationship between flake size and platform size, and
the variables that best measure it. This paper cannot
eliminate the uncertainty, but it moves toward that Exterior platform
goal. It extends earlier research, first in application angle
to two additional data sets not produced with the
questions addressed here in mind. These assemblages
extend analysis to flakes considerably smaller than
those produced in earlier experiments. Thus, they are
a good test of the robusticity of experimental results.
The data sets are combined for analysis, to further
consider how robust patterns of variable relationship
are between assemblages. Second, the paper tests sev-
eral of Pelcins predictor equations, not just the one
that Davis and Shea tested. Third, it examines the
eect of hammer or percussor type [also considered by
Pelcin (1996: 154160, 271; 1997)] and termination on
flake size. Fourth, the paper considers the relative Figure 1. Flake platform variables. Source: Pelcin (1996: figure 216).
merits of two scales and goals of analysis: prediction of
size in individual flakes versus study of relationships
across assemblages or subsets of them. projected, intersecting to form an angle (Figure 1).
Theoretical platform thickness is the length of the line
normal to the platform that begins at the juncture of
the flakes interior surface with the platform and ends
The Problem at the point of intersection. Theoretical platform angle
Pelcins research is the focus of the uncertainty. His is the angle formed by the two lines. There is consider-
and earlier experiments were designed with close con- able latitude in these measurements. On curved or
trol over striking angle and force, and properties of irregular surfaces, tangents can be drawn from many
the objective piece or core (Dibble & Pelcin, 1995: points. The tangent drawn is unimportant, provided
429430; Pelcin, 1996: 6796). For instance, Dibble only that platform angle is measured from it and
and Pelcin used homogeneous plate glass in many platform thickness to it. Thus, one specimen can yield
experiments, also holding constant metric dimensions many pairs of thickness and angle values, any of which
like core width. Obviously, raw material and core are valid. The particular tangent line and hence angle
size and form aect fracture mechanics (Cotterell & value determine a unique thickness value. Such
Kamminga, 1987: 703705; Pelcin, 1997) in ways measurement latitude is a problem as much as a
uncontrolled by experiments, which were not faithful strength, since it can hinder comparison between ana-
to the conditions under which prehistoric stone tools lysts. These quantities are not to be confused with
were made and used. Yet control is a virtue. Freehand actual or empirical platform thickness (the maximum
knapping conflates the eects of many factors, but distance along the platform between the interior and
controlled knapping isolates pairs of variables to better exterior surfaces) and platform angle [the angle formed
understand their relationships. At any rate, similar by the intersection of the platform and the exterior
patterns registered in Old World Palaeolithic archaeo- surface (Figure 1)].
logical assemblages possessing considerable uncon- Pelcins theoretical quantities have a practical value,
trolled variation from dierent raw materials, contexts because they are often measured more easily and
and spans of accumulation (Dibble, 1997). replicably than empirical ones are. But Pelcin (1996:
Pelcin properly qualified analytical conclusions, 293294) also justified them as linking thickness and
stressing their relevance only to the materials worked angle such that measuring one gives the other, free of
and the controlled knapping conditions. He also the eects of bevels and surface irregularities of flakes.
(Pelcin, 1996: 101, 110, figure 18) defined platform Together, their values specify salient properties of
thickness and exterior platform angle as theoretical flakes, such as their size. There is good theoretical
quantities. The quantities are best defined by illus- warrant for Pelcins measures, but few archaeologists
tration and description. Lines normal to the platform measure platform thickness or exterior platform angle
and normal or tangential to the exterior surface are as he did. Thus, dierences of material, knapping
Flake Size from Platform Attributes 879

Table 1. Prediction equations for flake mass from controlled experiments

Equation Source

(1) (0361PT)(3305tanEPA)+(1663tan EPA)PT Dibble & Pelcin (1995: 432)

(2) (0011PT)3 (0063PT)2 +(2819PT) Pelcin (1996: 282, table 11)
(3) (00006(TPTtanEPA))3 (0034(TPTtanEPA))2 +(1837(TPTtanEPA)) Pelcin (1998: 619) (conchoidal)
(4) (00001(TPTtanEPA))3 (0009(TPTtanEPA))2 +(0732(TPTtanEPA) Pelcin (1998: 619) (bending)
(5) (00001(TPTtanEPA))3 (0005(TPTtanEPA))2 +(0989(TPTtanEPA) Pelcin (1998: 619)
(6) (0079PT3)+(0119PT2)+(1954PT) Pelcin (1996: 271, table 7)

PT=platform thickness; TPT=theoretical platform thickness; EPA=exterior platform angle.

control, and measurement complicate the use of Separately, Dibble (1998) and Pelcin (1998) replied
Pelcins mass estimates in empirical assemblages. to Davis and Shea. Dibble largely concurred with
Davis and Shea, agreeing that platform width should
be considered in new predictor equations. Neverthe-
Resolving the controversy
less, Dibble disagreed with Davis and Sheas search
Davis & Shea (1998: 604) estimated mass using for exact prediction for individual flakes. Instead, he
Dibble & Pelcins (1995: 432) non-linear equation counselled assemblage-scale analyses of pattern and
that expressed it as a function of platform thickness interpretation, an important point revisited below.
and tangent of exterior platform angle. Pelcin reported Pelcin, however, disputed this conclusion and Davis
a dierent equation for 75 exterior platform-angle and Sheas results in general. Besides the particulars of
flakes (1996: 282, table 11), separate equations for knapped materials and which predictor equation to
hard-hammer and soft-hammer flakes and a fifth use, Pelcins chief conclusion was that platform width
equation that accommodated both flake types (1998: did not influence flake size, instead being a threshold
619). These appear as equations 15, respectively, in variable. To predict original mass, Pelcin (1998: 618)
Table 1. Another of Pelcins expressions appears here advocated experiments to calibrate relationships with
as equation 6. various raw materials. He also would distinguish
Davis & Shea (1998) tested Dibble & Pelcins (1995: bending-initiation (soft-hammer) and conchoidal-
432) equation 1 on obsidian flakes made by freehand initiation (hard-hammer) flakes (sensu Cotterell &
percussion. Measuring both actual metric variables Kamminga, 1987: 683689) and derive separate
and Pelcins (1996: 223226) theoretical ones, they equations for each. Thus, there remains uncertainty
estimated original flake mass using the equation about the validity of equations, the importance of
and compared the estimates to empirical mass. Davis platform width, and the scale and proper goals of
& Shea (1998: 605) knapped, measured, used and analysis.
resharpened the flakes. They estimated the original size
of the now-reduced specimens using the predictor
equation. This is a useful control, but Davis and Persisting questions
Shea could have done their analysis without actually One Pelcin experiment compared hard-hammer and
reducing the flakes. Although estimated original size soft-hammer percussion, holding exterior platform
of many flakes approached their empirical values, angle at approximately 75. Mass did not dier
many estimates were moderately low and several were between hard-hammer and soft-hammer flakes, but
extremely high (Davis & Shea, 1998: figure 6). In hard-hammer ones were shorter and thicker (Pelcin,
general, estimated values were not especially faithful to 1996: 154). Thus, hammer type slightly aected flake
empirical ones. shape and therefore surface area without aecting
Davis & Shea (1998: 607608) attributed this result mass; form varied independent of size. This result
to dierences in materials knapped and to exper- suggests that mass is a better size measure than surface
imental design. But they concluded also that flake area, at least when hammer type is unknown.
platform width as well as platform thickness and Pelcin defined equations 3 and 4 for hard-hammer
exterior platform angle aected flake mass. Width and soft-hammer flakes, respectively. He also (1996:
was held constant in Dibble and Pelcins experiments appendix 2) recorded actual exterior platform angles
but is practically impossible to control in freehand and theoretical platform thickness. Empirical platform
reduction. Pelcin did not include platform width in his thickness was reported as 0 for all of these specimens.
equation; in Davis and Sheas judgment, the omission Pelcins data are worth examining as Davis and Shea
largely accounted for the equations unsatisfactory analysed theirs. Mass predicted from equation 1 agrees
performance. strongly with actual mass (r=096, P=000) (Figure 2).
880 M. J. Shott et al.

30 30




Error (%)
Mass (g)



Case number
Figure 3. Davis and Sheas error term in Pelcins hammer assem-
0 10 20 30
Predicted mass (g) The 346 complete flakes are the subject of analysis
Figure 2. Mass against predicted mass in Pelcins hammer here. Bradbury and Carrs reductions varied by
experiment (equation 1 used for prediction). , Soft hammer; intended product and hammer; some reductions
, hard hammer; , total population. formed parts of longer sequences. Odell (1989: 163
164) described various reductions to produce bifaces,
The regression slope coecient is 098007, essen- blades and other tools diagnostic of Midwestern North
tially the value of 10 sought in such a relationship; unit American prehistoric cultures. Local toolstone, chiefly
increase in predicted mass yields unit increase in actual Burlington chert, was knapped. Some reductions were
mass. Mass is predicted largely from theoretical plat- accomplished by pressure flaking or striking blades
form thickness, so varies strongly with it (r=094, from cores. Soft-hammer and pressure flakes can both
P=000). It also agrees strongly with platform area be detached by bending (Cotterell & Kamminga, 1987:
(r=095, P=000): it must, because platform width 689691), but the latter are usually too small to serve
essentially was held constant so platform area is almost as tools. Pressure-flaked blades are an easily recognised
purely a function of platform thickness. exception. Thus, distinctions can be made in practice.
Davis & Sheas (1998: 607) error term varies much Analysis is confined to flakes knapped by hard-
less in Pelcins controlled results than in Davis & hammer (N=135) and soft-hammer (N=193) freehand
Sheas own (1998: figure 6) (Figure 3). Some predicted percussion.
values dier negligibly from actual mass and most Reduction was by freehand percussion, not exper-
dier by no more than 20%; slightly more than half of imental control. In this sense assemblages resemble
predicted values are overestimates. Yet two of the 19 Dibbles (1997) archaeological data, involving dierent
predicted values dier from actual ones by more than raw materials knapped to produce dierent kinds and
30%. Dierences of a few percent are trivial, of 1020% numbers of finished tools. Knapped stone assemblages
annoying, of 30% or more worrisome. Error magnitude must be studied to determine the general relevance
does not correlate with platform thickness, mass or of theoretical models (Dibble, 1998: 611). Yet these
hammer, so is essentially random. Even in Pelcins data are controlled better for raw material than are
admirably controlled data, there is sucient prediction most empirical assemblages, because few materials
error to make doubtful the accuracy of some predicted are involved and there is no complication by vary-
values. Thus, most predicted values are quite accurate ing archaeological context and long and unknown
but a few are not, and there seems no way to identify accumulation spans. These data, in short, fall between
those few. the close control of experimental studies and the
empirical fidelity of archaeological assemblages.

Extending the Approach

As above, one purpose of this paper is to extend
Comparison of Data Sets
Pelcins approach to other assemblages. Bradbury & Odells and Bradbury and Carrs assemblages resulted
Carr (1999) described the flake assemblage they used to from the production not just of large flake blanks but
model continuous reduction. In 13 reductions, they of finished tools, and include debris from the complete
struck 590 platform-bearing flakes of Fort Payne chert. reduction span, not just its early portion. Thus, they
Flake Size from Platform Attributes 881

1.0 as a simple function, mass as a power function, of

retouch. Pelcin (1998: 616), in contrast, argued that
surface area and mass are both determined by plat-
form variables, but area also in part by core surface
0.8 morphology, a factor ignored by predictor equations.
Measuring flake size both by mass and surface area
should reveal which is best predicted by platform
0.6 Platform variables include width, thickness and

exterior platform angle (Figure 1). Pelcin accounted

for flake mass by theoretical platform thickness and
angle; Davis & Shea (1998; see also Dibble, 1997,
1998) considered platform width equally important.
Variables separate and combined eects can be
determined in analysis. Crudely, platform area is the
0.2 product of platform width and platform thickness,
a measure as error-prone as flake area. Platform
thickness and exterior platform angle are empirical
measures, not Pelcins theoretical quantities.
12.5 62.5 112.5 162.5 212.5
Mass (g) Pelcins Estimation Equations
Figure 4. Distribution of flake weight by assemblage. , Davis & Bradbury and Carr assemblage
Shea (1998); , Bradbury & Carr (1999); , Odell (1989).
Since most analysts measure empirical platform thick-
ness and exterior angle, it is worth testing Pelcins
have highly skewed mass distributions. The mean mass prediction equations on other assemblages to deter-
in Davis & Sheas sample was 974 g and the range mine their general relevance. Empirical platform thick-
10238 g (Z. Davis, pers. comm.), and the distribution ness can never exceed theoretical platform thickness
seems less skewed. Thus, Davis and Sheas specimens as Pelcin defined the latter, and usually is less. In
are on average heavier and more nearly normal in Bradbury & Carrs (1999) data, mean platform thick-
distribution over a wider range. This dierence might ness is 41 mm, and very few values exceed 10. Pelcins
be assumed to cause the assemblages to dier in theoretical thickness is much higher on average (Pelcin,
patterning between variables, yet Davis and Sheas 1996: appendix 2). In Pelcins data, exterior plat-
and Pelcins assemblages pattern similarly, if not form angle is usually less than 75. To avoid inter-
identically, and the latters mass distribution and range observer error, one analyst measured platform angle in
(Pelcin, 1998: figure 2) resemble data sets studied here Bradbury and Carrs assemblage. There, angle gener-
more than they do Davis and Sheas. Figure 4 shows ally exceeds Pelcins, most cases being near 90 and
proportional distribution of mass in the data sets some above it. Tangent increases exponentially near
studied here and approximate frequencies per mass 90, so many Bradbury and Carr tangent values greatly
interval estimated from Davis & Sheas (1998: figure 3) exceed Pelcins. Therefore, the product of theoretical
data. Obviously, Odells and Bradbury and Carrs platform thickness and tangent of exterior platform
distributions are similar and both dier greatly from angle is higher on average and varies over a much
Davis and Sheas. wider range in Bradbury and Carrs data than in
Pelcins. Also, about 20% of Bradbury and Carrs
exterior platform angle values exceed 90, and their
Variables tangents are negative.
The general problem is the relationship between plat- Davis & Shea (1998: 607) used empirical mass in
form variables and original size of flakes. Flake size is the denominator of their measure of error in the
measured as mass (in g) and as surface area (in mm2), prediction equation. When that value is less than one,
the latter crudely approximated here and elsewhere as the numerators dierence between empirical and
the product of length and width. In eect, mass is predicted mass is multiplied, not reduced. As a result,
measured directly, flake area is estimated more crudely the measure exaggerates error in the small flakes that
by ignoring details of form. Measurement error diers dominate the study assemblages. Davis and Sheas
between size variables. measure is sensible for their assemblage, but to avoid
Dibble (1998: 612) considered surface area to be a its undesirable eect on small flakes error here is
better size measure than mass because reduction is calculated as:
accomplished by retouch of thin edges which removes
little mass. Thus, he argued that surface area reduces (1(empirical mass/predicted mass))100
882 M. J. Shott et al.

Table 2. Range and mean of errors associated with prediction equations Odell assemblage
Mean platform thickness in Odells assemblage is
Equation Minimum Maximum Mean
46 mm, the highest value 87 mm. Odell (1989: 168)
did not measure exterior platform angle, finding it
Bradbury & Carr (1999) dicult to replicate accurately between observers. His
1 3767 20596 1027
2 2033 988 702 wariness underscores the importance of measurement
3 128 1976 958 accuracy, a problem insuciently appreciated in lithic
4 1718 2971 919 studies (Shott, 1994: 7475). Like Bradbury and
5 8931 4664 936 Carr, Odell found measurement error slight in other
6 1478 995 786
Odell (1989) Most Pelcin estimators require platform angle,
2 3456 989 653
6 5149 990 712
so cannot be calculated in Odells assemblages. But
equations 2 and 6 use only platform thickness. As
above, Pelcins (1996: 282, table 11) equation 2 for 75
using the same scale factor. This expression measures exterior-platform angle flakes should not predict accu-
the percentage dierence between empirical and pre- rately specimens whose angle significantly diers from
dicted mass. Obviously, as the quantities converge, that value. Neither equation predicts mass well in
the expression approaches 0. Positive values indicate Odells assemblage, yielding values similar to Bradbury
overestimation of empirical figures, negative ones & Carrs (Table 2).
None of Pelcins estimator equations performed well
in Bradbury and Carrs assemblage, all producing at Summary of prediction results
least several estimates that diered greatly from actual This exercise is something of a self-fulfilling prophecy.
mass. Unlike Davis and Sheas study, most errors are It tests Pelcins prediction equations using dierent
overestimates, and these are substantial ones (Table 2). prediction variables, invalid in strict terms. But the
For instance, Bradbury and Carrs hard-hammer flakes exercise is worth the trouble, both to determine how
predicted by Pelcins equation 3 yield a mean error of well prediction equations perform using the platform
958, yet the desired result is 0. On average, predicted variables measured in the great majority of existing
values are nearly double empirical ones, this in a subset data sets and to compare with Davis and Sheas results.
of flakes for which equation 5 at least is designed. This Despite the dierence in variables and in the corre-
result occurs from the dierences noted above between sponding scale of prediction error, a similar pattern of
Pelcins and Bradbury and Carrs methods and to the error emerges in both tests. Prediction error for most
greater variation inherent in the latters assemblage. specimens is modest but for a few is very high.
Pelcins rigorous controls did not allow for flakes In strictest terms, Pelcins results pertain to plate-
having exterior angles that exceed 90 yet, as above, glass flakes from cores possessing fixed platform and
many empirical values exceed this figure. The tangent angle values. No-one should expect the best model for
of such angles is negative, a meaningless value best those conditions to perform well in others; better
recorded as undefined, since Pelcins method is invalid would be to define empirically the best model for each
for estimating mass when exterior platform angle assemblage (Dibble, 1998: 611; Pelcin, 1998: 615). Yet
exceeds 90. Obviously, the resulting product of the none of Pelcins various general equations are good
tangent and platform thickness is also negative. Even models for these assemblages. This is no shortcoming
omitting these cases for good cause, estimated values of any assemblage or equation, merely recognition that
for flakes having platform angles that approach 90 the conditions resulting in Pelcins experiment do not
greatly exceed actual ones because tangent increases occur elsewhere. Pelcins data are useful heuristics but
rapidly toward 90. Pelcins specimens rarely if are not yet close guides in analysis.
ever possessed exterior angles above 80, yet many
Bradbury and Carr flakes did.
Thus, some empirical specimens exceeded the range Empirical Approach
of variation in Pelcins experiments, and their estimates
exceeded actual mass. Bradbury and Carrs assemblage Eventually, prediction equations may be devised for
is much larger and more variable than Davis and common raw materials and industries. Until then,
Sheas, which further increases the proportion and equations from controlled experiments point the way
magnitude of overestimates. From Davis & Sheas but do not yet accurately estimate original size of
(1998) figures 5 and 6, two of their specimens were knapped flakes. As an alternative to theoretical
extreme outliers to the relationship between actual and models, an empirical approach seeks reliable patterns
predicted mass. In eect, Davis & Sheas (1998: figure in the relationship between flake size and remnant
6) pattern of estimator errormany modest values and platform variables in order to estimate size. The search
a few extreme oneswas magnified and compounded begins with Pelcins data analysed above and involves
in Bradbury and Carrs assemblage. Bradbury and Carrs and Odells assemblages in
Flake Size from Platform Attributes 883

30 6000
(a) (b)


20 4000

Flake area (mm2)

Mass (g)


10 2000


0 20 40 60 80 100 120 0 20 40 60 80 100 120

Platform area (mm2) Platform area (mm2)
Figure 5. Flake size against platform area in Pelcins hammer assemblage: (a) mass; (b) flake area. , Soft hammer; , hard hammer;
, total population.

turn, the analytical method linear regression using cases fall outside the regression confidence limits by
least squares. Some favour methods like major-axis about the same degree. The surface areaplatform area
regression but these may be less, not more, apt and scatter is diuse, perhaps non-linear, and correlation is
least-squares regression is far more common (Smith, lower (r=069, P=001). The regression line almost
1994). neatly divides hard-hammer and soft-hammer flakes,
In Pelcins data, mass regresses better upon platform so is not a good model for the combined assemblage.
area than does flake surface area (for mass, r=095, In Pelcins data, platform area predicts mass better
P=000; for surface area, r=069, P=001) (Figure than it does flake area.
5(a),(b)). In mass, soft-hammer flakes (r=098,
P=000) regress slightly better upon platform area
than do hard-hammer ones (r=095, P=000); in sur- Bradbury and Carr assemblage
face area hard-hammer flakes regress significantly Mass. Mass correlates positively with platform thick-
better (r=077, P=001) than do soft-hammer ones ness (r=078, P=000), width (r=072, P=000) and
(r=063, P=007). Alas, hammer type is dicult to area (r=081, P=000) (e.g. Figure 6). Correlation
distinguish in flake properties (Dibble & Shott, in between mass and platform variables is consistently
preparation). To judge from Pelcins data, the distinc- higher in hard-hammer than in soft-hammer flakes.
tion is unimportant when regressing mass upon plat- Mass does not pattern clearly with exterior platform
form area but is important when regressing surface angle, although significance is attained (r=014,
area upon it, because hard-hammer flakes regress P=001) owing perhaps to the large sample. Nor does
better upon platform area. mass pattern clearly with angle in the subsets of
Regression of mass upon platform area is highly hard-hammer and soft-hammer flakes. Even where
constrained (r=095, P=000) yet several flakes, correlation is strong between mass and platform vari-
especially hard-hammer ones, are considerably heavier ables, most cases fall in a dense swarm near the origin.
than platform area would predict. Thus, regression is a Considering the range of variation, especially in plat-
very good model for most flakes, but not for all. Five form area and non-normal distributions of variables,
of the 19 cases, including three of ten hard-hammer pattern is more clear when variables are transformed
ones, fall completely outside the regression lines to natural logarithms (except in exterior platform
admittedly narrow confidence limits. The lesser control angle, for which log-transformation would have
of freehand percussion should produce more variation, dubious significance). All subsequent analysis is of log
further complicating the relationship. Scatter of mass variables.
upon platform area is linear both in original and Log-mass and log-platform area correlate slightly
log-transformed variables. Indeed, log-transformation better (r=082, P=000) than log-mass does with either
of the variables negligibly alters results. Regression platform dimension alone (for thickness r=081,
parameters are essentially unchanged and the same P=000; for width r=079, P=000), both in general
884 M. J. Shott et al.

160 6


100 2

Mass (g)


40 2


0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8
0 10 20 30 Log-platform area
Platform thickness (mm) Figure 7. Log-mass against log-platform area in Bradbury and
Figure 6. Mass against platform thickness in Bradbury and Carrs Carrs assemblage. , Soft hammer; , hard hammer; , total
assemblage. , Soft hammer; , hard hammer. population.

and in hard-hammer and soft-hammer flakes separ- 6

ately. Correlation in log-thickness alone nearly equals
that in log-platform area, which might suggest that the
inclusion of width in platform area adds little explana-
tory power. But log-width alone correlates nearly as 4
highly as does log-thickness. Log-platform area is
slightly better than either platform dimension alone.
Figure 7 shows the relationship for all flakes. Results
are similar, even slightly better, in correlation in 2

hard-hammer flakes alone (r=083, P=000), and

both coefficients in this regression overlap at 1 ..
with their counterparts in the general regression. But
soft-hammer flakes correlate more weakly (r=052,
P=000) and their regression coecients dier signifi-
cantly from general and hard-hammer ones; in particu-
lar, the slope coecient is significantly lower. In 2
general, then, log-platform area gives log-weight
fairly well in hard-hammer flakes, and less well in
soft-hammer ones.
Mass and exterior platform angle. Patterning is 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8
stronger still within intervals of exterior platform Log-platform area
angle. There are too few flakes possessing angles of less Figure 8. Log-mass against log-platform area in Bradbury and
than 70 to interpret patterning. For angles in the Carrs assemblage, for flakes with 7079 exterior platform angles.
, Soft hammer; , hard hammer; , total population.
7079 range, log-weight regresses upon log-platform
area very well [r=090 P=000 (Figure 8); for hard-
hammer flakes r=093, P=000; for soft-hammer r=087, P=000; for soft-hammer ones r=061,
ones r=070, P=000]. When the angle is 8089, P=000). Relatively few flakes exceed 99 in platform
covariation is fair in all flakes but still quite strong in angle but especially the hard-hammer ones among
hard-hammer ones (r=081, P=000; for hard-hammer them covary in log-weight and log-platform area
flakes r=089, P=000; for soft-hammer ones r=039, (r=073, P=0001).
P=0001). Similar patterning obtains when angle is All slope coecients overlap at 1 .., as do intercept
9099 (r=086, P=000; for hard-hammer flakes values for the two highest platform-angle intervals; the
Flake Size from Platform Attributes 885

8090 intervals intercept nearly overlaps at 1 .. with 9

the 90100 intervals value. Thus, across the intervals
log-mass rises at the same rate with log-platform
area, and intercepts rise with exterior platform angle. 8
Intercepts should dier between intervals because the
intervals apportion roughly equal ranges of variation
in log-mass and dier significantly among themselves 7
in mean log-mass (F=752, P=000), such that lower

Log-flake area
intervals include lighter flakes, and higher intervals
include heavier ones. Yet log-mass and platform angle
do not correlate in all flakes or within platform-angle
intervals (although the limited variation in platform
angle within intervals practically forces this result by
roughly controlling for platform angle). As above,
mass and exterior platform angle correlate weakly.
Multiple regression of log-mass upon both log-
platform area and platform angle diers insignificantly 4
from the regression upon log-platform area alone, in
general and in both hard-hammer and soft-hammer
flakes. Partial correlation of log-mass and log-platform 3
0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8
area controlling for angle (r=085, P=000) diers little
Log-platform area
from correlation without considering angle (r=082,
P=000). Thus, there is covariation without correlation Figure 9. Log-flake area against log-platform area in Bradbury and
Carrs assemblage. , Soft hammer; , hard hammer; , total
between log-mass and platform angle; correlation is population.
given by log-platform area.
Dierence in regression results between hard-
hammer and soft-hammer flakes has three possible 9
causes. First, the mechanics of hard-hammer and soft-
hammer percussion might dier such that platform
variables control flake size less closely in the latter than 8
in the former. Second, most soft-hammer flakes are
smaller than hard-hammer ones, so there might be
lower limits to the size eects of platform variables.
Perhaps no matter how small the platform, flakes
Log-flake area

knapped by freehand percussion can only be so small.

Third is idiosyncracy; some knappers prefer hard-
hammer and others billets in biface reduction. For 6
some purposes, the salient dierence is between core
reduction and tool production, not hard versus soft
hammer (Bradbury & Carr, 1999: 110). 5

Surface area. Similar relationships occur between flake

surface area and platform variables, both in pattern 4
and strength of correlation between the dependent
variable and independent ones and in the log vari-
ables. Again, therefore, all subsequent analysis is of 3
0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8
log variables. Log-surface area correlates (r=073,
P=000) and regresses well upon log-platform area Log-platform area
(Figure 9) but not quite as well as log-mass does. Figure 10. Log-flake area against log-platform area in Bradbury and
Again, the general and hard-hammer (r=076, P=000) Carrs hard-hammer flakes with 7079 exterior platform angles.
correlation and regression are statistically indis-
tinguishable but the soft-hammer results are weaker ones r=043, P=003). Figure 10 shows the pattern in
(r=040, P=016). As in log-mass, exterior platform hard-hammer flakes; smaller flakes tend to be over-
angle adds no significant explanatory power to the estimated in regression. When the angle is 8089,
regression of log-surface area upon log-platform area. covariation remains strong except in soft-hammer
Again, too few flakes possess platform angles below flakes (r=071, P=000; for hard-hammer flakes r=
70. When the angle is 7079, log-flake area regresses 084, P=000; for soft-hammer ones r=029, P=0013).
well upon log-platform area (r=083, P=000; for Again, covariation persists when the angle is 9099
hard-hammer flakes r=090, P=000; for soft-hammer (r=078, P=000; for hard-hammer flakes r=080,
886 M. J. Shott et al.

P=000; for soft-hammer ones r=049, P=000). 6

Again, the few flakes exceeding 99 in platform angle
pattern similarly.

Dependent variables compared. It would be pleasant to 4

conclude that flakes whose mass was estimated poorly
by the regression of log-mass upon log-platform area
were estimated well in the regression of log-flake area
upon log-platform area. If this were so, then the two

regressions together would be adequate models to
describe an assemblage. Yet such a conclusion would
be problematic; unless we somehow knew which model 0
was best for a specimen we could not determine which
was the best estimate. Whatever conclusion is desired,
the two regressions yield similar results. Standardised
residuals of the two dependent variables regressed 2
upon log-platform area are highly correlated with one
another (r=087, P=000). Specimens modelled well by
the log-mass regression are modelled well by the log-
flake area and specimens modelled poorly by one are 4
2 0 2 4 6 8
modelled equally poorly in the same way (i.e. over- or
Log-platform area
underestimated) in the other.
Figure 11. Log-mass against log-platform area in Odells assem-
blage. , Soft hammer; , hard hammer; , total population.
Odell assemblage
Mass. Flake mass and surface area correlate strongly
with platform variables (r=062, P=000). As in
the Bradbury and Carr data set, however, patterns
are ambiguous in all flakes and in hard-hammer and 9
soft-hammer ones separately. Natural-log transform-
ation reveals patterning better, so again is performed.
Not surprisingly, hard-hammer flakes tend towards the 8
plots upper right; soft-hammer ones are scattered
Log-flake area

more diusely at lower values on both variables.

Log-mass seems more constrained at higher than at
lower values of log-platform thickness, suggesting that
it is more constrained in hard-hammer than soft- 6
hammer flakes. Pattern and correlation are similar
between mass and the other platform variables, and
between flake surface area and all platform variables. 5
Log-mass correlates slightly better with log-platform
area (r=075, P=000) than with either platform
dimension alone (Figure 11). The pattern is clear but
the regression has weak predictive power. Standard
error of the estimate of regression is 125; at predicted 3
log-mass of 0, this corresponds to a mass range of 2 0 2 4 6 8
0335 g. The regression of log-surface area upon Log-platform area
log-platform area is slightly weaker, the scatter of cases Figure 12. Log-flake area against log-platform area in Odells
slightly more dispersed. Log-platform area is a better assemblage. , Soft hammer; , hard hammer; , total
model for log-mass in hard-hammer (r=079, P=000) population.
than in soft-hammer flakes (r=068, P=000), both in
somewhat tighter distribution of cases around the Correlation is higher for hard hammer (r=076,
regression line and in summary regression measures. In P=000) than for soft hammer flakes (r=061,
both subsets, log-mass correlates and regresses slightly P=000).
more strongly on log-platform area than does log-flake
area. Flake termination. Received theory describes flake for-
Log-flake area also correlates with log-platform area mation in three phases: initiation, propagation and
(r=068, P=000) but the scatter is diuse and the termination. Flake termination may bear on the
regression has even less predictive power (Figure 12). relationship between platform variables and size.
Flake Size from Platform Attributes 887

Table 3. Comparison of flake size by termination type in Odells (1989) assemblage

Mass (g) Surface area (mm2)

Termination N Mean .. Mean ..

Feather 255 51 115 7296 10713

Hinge 46 49 90 8816 12591
Reverse-hinge 27 68 101 9378 9413
F=030, P=074 F=074, P=048

Cotterell & Kamminga (1987: 698703) described com- between log-mass (r=074, P=000) or log-flake area
mon terminations. Feathering occurs when interior (r=066, P=000) and log-platform area; regressions of
and exterior surfaces gradually converge. Hinge and the variables upon log-platform area have lower slope
step fractures occur when the force of detachment is coecients. The preponderance alone of feather-
deflected from its normal path. Platform thickness termination flakes should make their results more
apparently influences termination (Pelcin, 1996: 250). similar to general results because they are the greater
Feathering is considered normal, perhaps ideal, but part of the population. Even taking this into account,
hinges and step termination could be preferred in the slightly lower slope value for hinge-termination
blanks for biface production because their uniform flakes suggests that they are slightly smaller for the size
thickness facilitates thinning. of their platforms, but not significantly so. But when
Generally, flakes that terminate by hinging or step- hinge and reverse-hinge terminations are separated, the
ping should be smaller than they would be had they correlation (r=077, P=000) and regression for hinge-
terminated by feathering. At least they should termination flakes closely resembles that for feather-
have smaller surface areas. But such flakes often are termination flakes. Reverse-hinge flakes correlate
quite thick, even just proximal to the termination, so (r=068, P=000) less strongly with log-platform area
might not be lighter than feather-termination ones. Results recur in treatment of hard-hammer flakes
Reasonably, Davis & Shea (1998: 608) confined their alone. Again, there is no significant dierence in
study to feather-termination flakes. Odell (1989) coded mass (t=048, P=063) or flake area (t=045, P=066)
flakes for termination, recognising feather, hinge and between termination types, although log-mass of
reverse-hinge (or plunge or outrepasse) variants. For feather-termination flakes (r=079, P=000) again cor-
some purposes, the latter two were combined as hinge relates slightly better with log-platform area than does
terminations. About 75% of flakes in Odells data set log-mass of hinge-termination ones (r=081, P=000).
terminated by feathering, the rest dividing roughly Again, the regression slope value is slightly higher and
equally between variants of hinging. nearly identical to the complete population for feather-
Termination bears little on the relationship between termination flakes. The same pattern occurs in the
flake mass and platform size. For all flakes analysed, correlation of log-flake area and log-platform area. In
feather and hinge terminations do not dier in mass soft-hammer flakes, the dierence in mass (t=053,
(t=034, P=074) or flake area (t=120, P=023); P=059) and flake area (t=165, P=010) between
contrary to expectations, feather termination flakes feather- and hinge-termination flakes is slight, and even
have slightly lower means for both variables. When the latters regression of log-mass upon log-platform
hinge and reverse-hinge terminations are separated, the area is very similar to combined regression. Also again,
results dier slightly but are not significant. Ignoring soft-hammer hinge-termination flakes pattern with log-
dierences in sample size, reverse-hinge terminations platform area much as feather-termination flakes do,
produce heavier flakes than either feather or ordi- but reverse-hinge flakes exhibit weaker correlation.
nary hinge terminations, and hinge and reverse-hinge On balance, feather- and combined hinge-
flakes both have greater surface area than feather- termination flakes dier relatively little in the relation-
termination flakes (Table 3). Reverse-hinge flakes ship between flake and platform size. To a slight but
terminate by plunging through one face to the other insignificant extent, feather-termination flakes are
of the objective piece. This apparently detaches larger for a given platform size, and their size increases
greater mass from the piece than occurs with other with platform size at a higher rate. When hinge and
terminations, and somewhat greater surface area as reverse-hinge terminations are distinguished, hinge-
well. termination flakes behave much in the same ways as
Among hard-hammer and soft-hammer flakes, feather-termination ones, but reverse-hinge flakes are
regression of log-mass upon log-platform area separ- larger and heavier for a given platform size. Thus,
ately for feather and hinge terminations diers little results are better for feather- and hinge-termination
from the regression of all flakes. Nevertheless, hinge- types than for reverse-hinge ones. Termination may
termination flakes have a slightly lower correlation complicate patterning between platform size and flake
888 M. J. Shott et al.

size (Davis & Shea, 1998: 608) but in these data the no one linear model governs the relationship between
eect is slight. If termination type were known in dependent and independent variables.
reduced tools from flake blanks, it would be best when This conclusion applies especially to all soft-hammer
predicting original size to distinguish reverse-hinge flakes. Fortunately, hard-hammer flakes conform
blanks from others. Unfortunately, except in side to the same model between assemblages (Table 4).
scrapers and other flake tools retouched only on lateral Because intercept and slope coecients are very similar
margins, the distal or termination edge ordinarily is the and all overlap at 1 .., one model does describe
edge used and then is resharpened. In most flake the relationship between log-size and remnant plat-
blanks, therefore, it is not preserved on the finished form dimensions of hard-hammer flakes; perhaps the
tool. regression of combined assemblages can be treated as a
valid model of the relationship that might be extended
to other assemblages. This is a happy conclusion only
Combining Data Sets if we assume that most flake tools were struck using
Flake mass and surface area correlate well with plat- hard hammers.
form variables in the assemblages. Similar correlation For most purposes, it would be best to distinguish
measures and slope of regression lines suggest that the hard-hammer and soft-hammer flakes as Pelcin (1998:
pattern of relationship is similar in the two sets. This 618) advocated. Alas, this is easier said than done
conclusion would be pleasant, suggesting that mechan- (Dibble & Shott, in preparation). Hard and soft
ical processes govern the relationship between platform are categorical subdivisions of what is at least an
and flake regardless of dierences in toolstone or ordinal variable; dierent degrees of hardness aect the
finished products. In eect, it suggests that the relation- patterns of association between hammer and variables
ship is practically a constant, and so applies generally. considered diagnostic of hammer type. Also, diagnos-
Before drawing that conclusion, however, the relation- tic variables of either category tend to pattern with the
ship between platform and flake size should be studied category to dierent degrees; in particular, many soft-
in the combined assemblages. hammer flakes lack soft-hammer diagnostic variables.
Log-mass and log-platform area correlate strongly Again, core versus tool reduction may be a more useful
(r=079, P=000), although results seem stronger distinction than hammer (Bradbury & Carr, 1999)
in Bradbury and Carrs than in Odells flakes because core-reduction flakes likelier served as tool
(Figure 13(a)). (The several Bradbury and Carr cases at blanks.
the same low log-mass values are the product of Generally, log-mass patterns better with log-
measuring mass in 01 g increments.) Correlation platform area than does log-flake area (Table 4). This
(r=082, P=000) and regression for hard-hammer must owe in part to the greater measurement error
flakes only also yields good results (Figure 13(b)); inherent in flake area than in mass, much as measure-
correlation (r=063, P=000) and regression for soft- ment error is high in platform area. However, it may
hammer ones again is weaker (Figure 13(c)). Quadratic also owe to the eect that core form has on flake area
and other power equations improved results in many independent of platform size (Pelcin, 1998: 616). Both
of Pelcins (1996) experiments, but do not have the measures of flake size should be used where possible
same eect in these data. For instance, r2 =065 in a because they have dierent strengths and weaknesses.
quadratic model for log-mass against log-platform Among soft-hammer flakes, results are generally
area in combined assemblages only slightly higher than weak in Bradbury & Carrs (1999) assemblage. Odells
the linear models r2 value of 062. (1989) and the combined assemblages are similar. Only
Log-flake area also correlates with log-platform with care should this model be applied elsewhere.
area, but less strongly (r=071, P=000). Again, hard- One possible cause of the dierence is that Bradbury
hammer flakes correlate fairly well (r=077, P=000), & Carrs (1999) soft-hammer reductions were more
and soft-hammer ones less well (r=054, P=000). As advanced than Odells (1989) were, three of them
in log-mass, the data sets dier in patterning; Bradbury continuing to resharpen finished bifaces. Perhaps as
& Carrs (1999) assemblage contains more variation in tools and therefore flakes struck from them diminish
log-flake area than Odells that is independent of in size, the relationship between flake and platform
log-platform area (Figure 14). size weakens or approaches a threshold below which
platform size cannot decline.
Odell (1989: 164) reported a reduction sequence
Summary of empirical approach from his experiments S/H2 to S3 and from S/H2 to
For all flakes analysed, separate regressions by assem- H3 and H4. Bradbury & Carrs (1999: 109110)
blage of both log-size variables upon log-platform area experiment 5 continued in part as experiment 10,
dier in parameters; neither intercept nor slope coef- and 12 continued as 29. Results pattern ambiguously
ficients overlap at 1 .. (Table 4). Not surprisingly, with reduction sequence (Table 5). In Bradbury &
parameters in the combined data set roughly split the Carrs (1999) sequence 1229, regression weakens as
dierence between assemblages, but neither do they reduction proceeds but in sequence 510 it improves.
overlap with either assemblage at 1 .. In all flakes, In Odells (1989) S/H2-S3 sequence, parameters
Flake Size from Platform Attributes 889

6 6
(a) (b)

4 4

2 2

0 0

2 2

4 4
2 0 2 4 6 8 2 0 2 4 6 8
Log-platform area Log-platform area



2 0 2 4 6 8
Log-platform area
Figure 13. Log-mass against log-platform area in combined assemblage. (a) All flakes; (b) hard-hammer flakes; (c) soft-hammer flakes.
, Odell (1989); , Bradbury & Carr (1999); , total population.

overlap at 1 .., but correlation increases as of log-mass upon log-platform area for hard-hammer
reduction proceeds. Odells S/H2 reduction was the flakes in the combined assemblages. To judge from the
common source for subsequent reductions H3 and H4. r2 value, log-platform area largely accounts for vari-
Here, correlation declines with reduction, although ation in log-mass. But largely is not entirely. Figure
parameters overlap at 1 .. Results do not show 13(b) shows considerable dispersion around the
that degree or stage of reduction consistently aects regression line. Standard error of the estimate is 105.
the relationship between log-size and platform. For an estimated log-mass of 20, the probability is
067 that the true value falls between 095 and 350.
Summary. Regression results are statistically signifi- The lower figure corresponds to a mass of 26 g, the
cant and intuitively appealing, but they have little upper to a mass of 211 g; the range of estimate error
predictive value. Consider, for instance, the regression spans nearly an order of magnitude.
890 M. J. Shott et al.

10 For comparison, data are grouped by Dibbles inter-

vals except where wider variable ranges required
additional intervals. In thickness, the general positive
9 relationship resembles Dibbles results, but reverses
near the centre of the range. Dibbles sample included
heavier flakes; his range in mass was much wider. Mass
against platform width more closely resembles Dibbles
finding in scale and pattern, with a slight tendency for
Log-flake area

7 mean mass to increase at a higher rate with platform

width. There is good theoretical warrant for the influ-
ence of platform thickness on flake size, but platform
6 width may appear to influence mass only because both
are themselves influenced by thickness (Dibble, 1997:
154); this is the danger of possibly confusing corre-
lation and cause. Dibble (1997: figure 6) demonstrated
the independent eect of platform width by plotting
4 mass against it for intervals of platform thickness,
especially at platform-width values above 40 mm.
However, no clear pattern emerges in the combined
2 0 2 4 6 8
data sets here (Figure 16). That is, holding platform-
thickness nearly constant does not reveal a patterned
Log-platform area
relationship between mass and platform width, so the
Figure 14. Log-flake area against log-platform area in com- latter seems to exert slight eect on mass as Pelcin
bined assemblage. , Odell (1989); , Bradbury & Carr (1999);
, total population.
(1998) suggested.
The aggregate pattern in mass by platform-thickness
intervals persists in the separate data sets but with
Measurement error in linear dimensions and angle considerable dierences at higher intervals (Figure 17).
and residual variation produced by raw material, core Both reverse the otherwise perfect rank-order of mass
size and form (Dibble, 1998: 612) make precise esti- and thickness interval between the 911 and 1113 mm
mation dicult, especially in area measurements which intervals. At higher thickness values, mass rises more
do not account for details of form. It is dicult to rapidly with platform thickness in Bradbury & Carrs
control such factors, but more precise measurement of (1999) assemblage than in Odells (1989). The aggre-
platform and flake area and perhaps further exper- gate pattern in mass by platform-width intervals
imentation on the complicating eects of core size and breaks down between data sets, which diverge above
form can improve estimates of original mass of reduced the 2030 mm interval (Figure 18). Plotted against
flakes. Until then, regression is a good general model both variables but especially against platform width,
of the relationship between flake and platform size the aggregate mass distribution masks considerable
but not a good way to estimate precise values for dierence between original data sets. It is not a
individual specimens. As a general model it is a valid robust pattern to which both assemblages hew, but a
way to compare assemblages with respect to the statistical by-product of the combination.
assemblage-level degree of reduction but not the This conclusion is discouraging, because dierences
reduction experienced by individual specimens. between assemblages in distribution of mass with
platform dimensions may owe, as here, to dierences
in original distribution, not just to possible dier-
Assemblage-level Analysis ences in aggregate reduction or average amount of
Dibble (1997) plotted mean values of dependent vari- reduction per specimen in each assemblage. If original,
ables like mass and flake area against intervals of unreduced mass patterned in the same way between
independent ones like platform dimensions and area assemblages, we could attribute empirical dierences in
and exterior platform angle. Briefly, flake mass varied reduced assemblages to reduction degree alone. To
positively with platform thickness, width and area judge from these two assemblages, we cannot make
and exterior angle. Platform width influenced mass this inference.
independent of thickness, the exterior angle was In length, width and mass, hard-hammer flakes
independent of platform area. Flake surface area significantly exceed soft-hammer ones. Against
varied positively with exterior angle; angle itself varied platform-thickness intervals, mass distributes similarly
inversely with platform area. All relationships except in hard-hammer and soft-hammer flakes, except at the
the last exist in Bradbury & Carrs (1999) assemblage highest interval (Figure 19(a)). Decline there in soft-
as well, although some dier in important details. hammer flakes may owe to the few specimens in this
To follow Dibble (1997), Figure 15 plots mean flake interval, a sample eect. Against platform-width inter-
mass against intervals of platform thickness and width. vals, mass distributes dierently by hammer type; not
Flake Size from Platform Attributes 891

Table 4. Summary of regression models for log-flake size upon log-platform size

Log-mass Log-flake surface area

Assemblage 0 (..) 1 (..) r 0 (..) 1 (..) r

All hard-hammer and soft-hammer flakes

Odell 255 (014) 083 (004) 075 450 (010) 047 (003) 068
Combined 280 (010) 092 (003) 079 436 (007) 052 (002) 071
Bradbury & Carr 323 (015) 104 (004) 082 413 (011) 059 (003) 074
Hard-hammer flakes
Odell 353 (041) 107 (009) 079 350 (029) 067 (006) 076
Combined 342 (026) 109 (005) 082 373 (019) 066 (004) 077
Bradbury & Carr 337 (033) 111 (006) 084 395 (025) 064 (005) 077
Soft-hammer flakes
Odell 235 (016) 076 (005) 068 462 (011) 043 (004) 061
Combined 238 (013) 073 (004) 063 462 (009) 042 (003) 054
Bradbury & Carr 180 (028) 060 (009) 047 Insignificant results 034

Table 5. Summary of regression models of log-mass upon log-platform On balance, the relationship of mass to platform
area for sequenced reductions dimensions is even more variable in assemblages than
in individual flakes. In assemblages hard-hammer and
Assemblages 0 (..) 1 (..) r
soft-hammer flakes should be distinguished if possible,
and dierences between assemblages of reduced flakes
Bradbury & Carr 12 155 (050) 072 (014) 073 qua tools may owe as much to dierences in pattern
Bradbury & Carr 29 Insignificant results 006
Bradbury & Carr 5 161 (080) 048 (026) 033 in original, unreduced specimens as to dierences in
Bradbury & Carr 10 254 (046) 075 (016) 059 degree of reduction.
Odell S/H2 183 (043) 068 (014) 058 This conclusion may owe partly to the aggregated
Odell S3 240 (030) 056 (011) 067 nature of data analysed at the assemblage level. Points
Odell H3 186 (029) 060 (011) 052
Odell H4 218 (051) 040 (029) 042 on assemblage-level plots denote averages of values
from widely varying numbers of individual specimens.
Especially at the upper margins of plots, points are
averages of very few specimens, only one at the extreme
surprisingly, in soft-hammer flakes mass rises more in several cases. Means of subsamples defined by inter-
slowly with platform width (Figure 19(b)). vals of platform dimensions can be very sensitive to one
Both platform area and exterior angle may aect or few extreme values. One way to counter this problem
flake size, perhaps independently. To demonstrate their would be to combine intervals, but at the cost of lower
independent eects, Dibble (1987: figure 8) plotted resolution. Another is bootstrap simulations to calcu-
mass against platform-angle for intervals of platform late means of interval subsamples of a size equal to no
area, finding a significant but weak positive relation- more than the size of the smallest interval sample. If
ship between the variables within each platform- means of such estimates are stable across simulations
area interval. Platform angle was measured only in and dispersion in values confined to narrow ranges,
Bradbury & Carrs (1999) assemblage. Figure 20 shows more confidence inheres in the pattern revealed in
a plot for this assemblage similar to Dibbles (1997) plots. Moreover, plots reduce ratio-scale or interval-
figure 8, and also reveals a slight positive relationship scale variables to ordinal ones, because the highest
between the variables. Too few specimens fell in higher interval likely spans a wider range than lower intervals
platform-area intervals for meaningful interpretation owing to its open upper limit. Thus, a few extreme
of their values. As in Dibbles archaeological data, outliers can greatly aect the distribution and thus
platform angle exerts a weak but significant eect here. the slope at which dependent variables vary with
Dibble (1997: 155) also argued that flake size could independent ones. If the number of intervals is
be increased either by increasing exterior platform increased to accommodate the upper tail of a distri-
angle or platform area. He considered these mutually bution, the number of specimens in some intervals is
exclusive options and expected that platform angle and apt to be low, an unavoidable consequence of right-
area would vary inversely when plotted for intervals of skewed distributions. Therefore, points on these plots
flake mass. This expectation bore out in Dibbles sometimes possess questionable reliability and they
data (1997: figure 11) but there are too few cases in cannot be treated as valid cases for correlation or
Bradbury & Carrs (1999) assemblage for the various regression. These shortcomings complicate the eort to
interval classes of platform area and mass to make the compare similar kinds of plots rigorously between
plot meaningful. assemblages.
892 M. J. Shott et al.

50 100
(a) Int. Range (b) Int. Range
1 <1 10 <10
2 13 15 1020
40 4 35 80 25 2030
6 57 35 3040
8 79 45 4050
10 911 55 5060
30 12 1113 60 65 6070
Mass (g)

Mass (g)
14 1315 75 >70
16 >15

20 40

10 20

0 2 4 6 8 10 12 14 16 5 15 25 35 45 55 65 75
Platform thickness (mm) Platform width (mm)
Figure 15. Mass against intervals of platform dimensions in combined assemblage. (a) Thickness; (b) width.

80 70


Mass (g)
Mass (g)

40 911
79 30

35 20

0 0 2 4 6 8 10 12 14 16 18
5 15 25 35 45 55 65 75 85
Platform width interval (mm) Platform thickness interval
Figure 17. Mass against intervals of platform thickness subdivided
Figure 16. Mass against intervals of platform width for intervals of
by assemblage. , Bradbury & Carr (1999); , Odell (1989).
platform thickness in combined assemblage.

the number and range of intervals would greatly

Summary complicate comparison between assemblages.
Prediction equations yield unacceptably high errors for Curation is a property of tools not assemblages
too many specimens to be reliable estimators of orig- (Shott, 1996). To judge from this study, it cannot be
inal flake size. Empirical regression is robust for hard- measured accurately in flakes from platform size. It is
hammer but not soft-hammer flakes. Still, many flakes possible, as Dibble advised, to plot flake size against
fall outside regression confidence limits, and standard platform size across intervals of the latter or other
errors are too high for accurate prediction of original variables, essentially calibrating the relationship at the
size. Confidence limits expand at the margins of the assemblage level. This measure is a proxy description
independent variable, yet the upper margin of platform of reduction and in that sense an indirect curation
area is the range in which most flake blanks are measure. Between assemblages, those whose empirical
selected for use. Thus, regressions have little predictive flake size declines at a faster rate with fixed intervals of
value, tolerating wide variation in the range of prob- platform size might be considered more heavily curated
able flake blanks. Assemblage-level analysis reduces because they are more extensively reduced. But such
higher-order data to ordinal intervals; dierences in measures should not distract us from research like
Flake Size from Platform Attributes 893

120 60

100 50

80 40

Mass (g)
Mass (g)

60 30



60 75 85 95 105
0 10 20 30 40 50 60 70 80
Platform angle interval (mm2)
Platform width interval
Figure 20. Mass against exterior platform angle for intervals of
Figure 18. Mass against intervals of platform width subdivided by platform area in Bradbury and Carr assemblage. Area: , 150
assemblage. , Bradbury & Carr (1999); , Odell (1989). 200 mm; , 100150 mm; +, 50100 mm; , <50 mm.

Pelcins that seeks to express precisely original flake Conclusions

size as a function of remnant platform variables. It
may be dicult to reach this degree of precision Pelcins equations do not predict flake mass or area in
(Dibble, 1998:613) but is worth attempting. these samples, but they are an unfair test of the
Pelcin, Davis and Shea and others predicted original equations because Pelcins theoretical variables were
flake size from remnant platform variables. Dibble not measured in them. Even leaving aside this point,
advocated assemblage-level analysis. Perhaps it is best this conclusion discredits Pelcins results less than it
to perform analysis at both levels depending upon the suggests the need to refine them and to calibrate
question of interest and the nature of available data. predictions to various toolstones and knapping modes.
There is no mutually exclusive choice between these It also should encourage archaeologists to gauge the
options. replicability of Pelcins theoretical platform thickness

60 120
(a) (b)

50 100

40 80
Mass (g)

Mass (g)

30 60

20 40

10 20

0 2 4 6 8 10 12 14 16 18 0 15 25 35 45 55 65 75
Platform thickness interval Platform width interval
Figure 19. Mass against intervals of platform dimensions subdivided by hammer: (a) thickness; (b) width. , Soft hammer; , hard hammer.
894 M. J. Shott et al.

and exterior platform angle variables. Eventually, we Cotterell, B. & Kamminga, J. (1987). The formation of flakes.
should acquire the knowledge and methods necessary American Antiquity 52, 675708.
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Nevertheless, results generally are better for hard- Dibble, H. L. (1997). Platform variability and flake morphology: a
hammer than for soft-hammer flakes, and the former comparison of experimental and archaeological data and impli-
cations for interpreting prehistoric lithic technological strategies.
are likelier to serve as tool blanks. This result supports Lithic Technology 22, 150170.
Pelcins (1998) judgment on the importance (if not the Dibble, H. L. (1998). Comment on Quantifying lithic curation: an
ease) of distinguishing these flake types. Mass corre- experimental test of Dibble and Pelcins original flake-tool mass
lates better with platform area than does flake area, predictor, by Z. J. Davis and J. J. Shea. Journal of Archaeological
although the latters greater measurement error may Science 25, 611613.
Dibble, H. L. & Pelcin, A. W. (1995). The eect of hammer mass and
contribute to the dierence. Whatever the case, velocity on flake mass. Journal of Archaeological Science 22,
results do not bear on the relative merits of mass and 429439.
flake area to measure reduction, since this study did Dibble, H. L. & Shott, M. J. (in preparation). Lithic Analysis: The
not investigate the covariation of either variable with Study of Stone Tools and Assemblages. Princeton, NJ: Princeton
University Press.
reduction. Platform widths influence on flake size Dibble, H. L. & Whittaker, J. C. (1981). New experimental evidence
seems limited. on the relation between percussion flaking and flake variation.
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We thank Harold Dibble and Juliet Morrow for their Pelcin, A. W. (1996). Controlled experiments in the production of flake
comments, and Richard Klein for his comments and attributes. Ph.D. Thesis. University of Pennsylvania.
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attributes: evidence from a controlled experiment. Journal of
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