'Whetstones' on the cutting edge. Understanding the cultural biography of Roman and medieval macrolithic tools through the application of use-wear analysis. From domestic and agricultural activities to specialized craft productions

Start - End 
2021 - 2023 (ongoing)
Department of Archaeology
Research Focus 



The material culture study of historic macro-lithic tools has been ignored for a long time. Traditionally, lithic studies have mainly been restricted to the investigation of pre- and proto-historic artefacts, as if stone implements are an anachronism in younger periods. Nevertheless, they hold a lot of potential to gain new insights in ancient technology, trade networks, agricultural and domestic activities and craft specialization of historical periods. Whereas the last decades typo-morphological studies and provenance studies have been developed, systematic functional studies are currently completely lacking. In this project we will focus on tools that are generically determined as “whetstone”, referring to the sharpening function for the cutting edge of metal implements. However, we believe that their specific function is much more diverse then is generally assumed. As such they can contribute to the wider socio-economic debate on domestic, agricultural and (specialized) craft activities. They could have been used in different stages of processing animal, vegetal and mineral resources like example metalworking, working bone, antler, amber, wood, stone and nuts. We aim to evaluate this hypothesis and as such to contribute to the debate on historical craft (specialization) by applying systematic use-wear studies on “whetstones”. An approach that has proved its merits in prehistoric archaeology, but which is highly innovative within historical archaeology.





Caroline Hamon

L'université Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne, Laboratoire « Trajectoires. De la sédentarisation à l'état »