The problems the Cutting Edge addresses

So why are we so interested in prehistoric cutting tools?

Dr. Andrea Dolfini answers the question….

Traditional archaeological approaches to ancient and historic edged tools normally involved the typological classification and the chemical analysis of the objects. The first task was carried out by painstakingly drawing artefacts from several museum collections, grouping them based on their shapes and features, and publishing them in paper catalogues (e.g. the Prähistorische Bronzefunde series for European prehistory). The second was often achieved by sampling the objects to determine their elemental composition by using various analytical techniques. More recently, a scholarly interest has developed for the full technological history of these objects including their manufacturing methods, their post-manufacturing transformations (e.g. mechanical sharpening or, for metalwork, work-hardening), and their use-life. New analytical techniques have thus been experimented and old ones have been extended to new materials. These include use-wear analysis, whose application was originally limited to lithic and osseous artefacts.

Yet the new research approaches require novel sets of metadata, which by and large are still lacking. In particular, selecting a sample of objects for use-wear analysis requires – besides the normal set of archaeological and analytical (chemical) data – access to high-resolution pictures of the objects with particular reference to those parts that researchers are most interested in, i.e. the cutting edges and, in many cases, the hafting areas. This is especially important for metalwork, for surface corrosion may seriously hinder any possibility of detecting manufacturing and use traces on the cutting edge of these objects. The goal of the present project is precisely to respond to the growing demand for such metadata archives and to make these accessible to students and researchers worldwide.



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