Lithics II

It really pays to read about your topic >1 week before it starts. Sunday morning (6th) before Lithics began, I thought I’d best open the portal to see what was coming up. I saw:



Cue mini-heart attack.

Thankfully they were multiple choice questions, ensuring we would rock up to class with at least a bit of background knowledge, having done prior reading.

So yes, last-last weekend I read up on stone tool manufacture in record time. Did you know that:

• Aboriginal Australians would hunt emus and dingos with stone tools.

Adzes are a stone tool, kind of like the sister tool to the axe (pronounced “ads”, like the annoying things you try and skip before a YouTube video)

• When the adzes wear down after a lot of use they become adze slugs, named so because you get the little sliver left behind and they can indeed resemble a homeless snail

• There are numerous ways you can crack a open a stone by hand and every pathway regarding stone flaking has been modelled and documented and described by physicists (what?*) … because of the angles of fracture can be theta and gamma and so on etc

• …and the previous point is why stone tools will have predictable features compared to an untouched rock sitting around.


On day two we got to recording different kinds of stone tools.

The main takeaway the lecturer wanted us to take away was that recording forms should be able to be stand-ins for people i.e. if you aren’t around to describe a rock, all your notes should be able to point someone else in the right direction.

Document, document, document! I think that really applies in all industries, such as accounting.

Image credit:

Our lecturer wanted us to try recording a mystery item at the start of classes with little/no knowledge, then return at the end of the course and see what the difference was.

I don’t know if I knew what the heck Silcrete was but for some reason I put that down as the raw material for the mystery item.

BTW if in doubt, silcrete (and a lot of volcanic rock) is glittery.

I now think my favourite stone is chalcedony because it was the prettiest thing in class (is that shallow? Oh well.) Some of it looked like frozen cola cola and some of it like frozen white mist.

I should have taken more photos but we were busy recording and I didn’t want to be rude with my phone out. So here’s a stock image.


One more fun fact: if you ever find a stone that’s nice and smooth and suspect that it’s an archaeological artefact purely “because it fits so well in my hand!!!”

…it’s not.

Do you have a favourite kind of stone? Do you know your birth stone? Does life spring up on you sometimes?

*I think physicists are examples of the cleverest people who look at the weirdest things with their time.


Scrub quiz; student life; secret agent

Just quickly, to the 12 people following this site and anyone else who has interacted with this blog – thank you so much! I appreciate you!

1.5 DAYS LEFT until the first Archaeology lecture and osteology lab!

Courtesy of my partner, I went to a pub quiz last night, hosted by med students at the university I’m going to (should I say scrub quiz? Ha ha ha).

Some interesting facts about objects and the world from last night:

• The country name ‘Spain’ came from a word that means ‘land of the rabbits’ 🐰🐰🐰

• The black box on a plane is actually orange 🟧 (bright, so they can find it)

• The country in the world with the most islands is Sweden 🇸🇪 many of which are unnamed (I would have guessed Indonesia)

• A camel’s hair brush is actually made from sheep and horse fur. Also sometimes cows. EDIT: on double checking apparently it’s a mix, and often squirrel fur 🐿

• One of the 7 Wonders of the World (in nature) is the aurora borealis. I thought it had to be a landmark but apparently the thermosphere is fair game.


The quiz writers must have run out of ideas toward the end of the night – I mean, there’s only so much content to ask about our planet, isn’t there? – the last rounds of questions literally devolved into hypothetical clinical cases. Judging by groans from everyone, it was not what they were expecting on a night out.

Photo of the pub ceiling, not because I was looking to the heavens in despair at this question, but to avoid posting living persons next to the screen. These doughnut shaped lights were cute.

But! That is what they must be prepared to be faced with one day, such as when someone collapses on their holiday plane to Fiji. Still, I wish they had asked a bit more about history and geography.

My partner is quite a positive person but I joke that as a med student he is SAD all the time – which, I decided, is the offical medical abbreviation for Studying And Dead. Soon we can be SAD together and it’ll be great.

I don’t recall ever going to a pub quiz or scrub quiz as an undergrad.

If I could time travel, I’d probably be a billionaire. But also, I would say to my sheltered undergraduate self, who used to rote-learn lecture slides:

“You! Sheltered person – go out more; hang out more; find work as an assistant for experience; make friends in your class and keep them. When you learn things, don’t just learn things. Learn the wider context of everything in which those things fit. Information without context just gets lost as noise. In the end, context is how you best make sense of anything in this world.

“And for goodness’s sake learn to drive sooner.”

The Archaeology school is at the same university – hoping they will host events to generate the same fellow-feeling. Particularly as I will continue working and do lectures online (For field trips and courses like next week, will schedule leave).

I haven’t told work about study plans.

This is also why I’m writing undercover (again, very appreciative of visitors, if you have read this far – thank you!)

As much as working at a desk all the time is driving me bananas, I actually quite like the people there, and don’t fancy leaving a crater and a smoking mass of incinerated bridges where my source of income is concerned (this is hyperbole but, you know. Not for a while anyway).

It’s perfectly cool, as it all feels a bit like being a secret agent, except with fewer assassination plots.


Hobbits and hidden faces

Things of note this week:

#1) Never mind climate deniers, COVID deniers and deniers of deliciousness of pineapple-on-pizza (I mean, we should mind, but just for this blog post) – on a less apocalyptic, more archaeologically related note, this week I learnt there are Hobbit Deniers!

Bilbo Baggins’s Existential Threat

Background: A wee adult skeleton – 1.06m tall – was found in Flores, Indonesia in 2003. To the world it was announced a new tiny species had been discovered, named Homo floresiensis. They were nicknamed Hobbits because they were so wee.

“The Hobbit Trap” is a book by distinguished Professor Maciej Henneberg who argues why H. Floresiensis is really unlikely a new species, but instead the skeleton belonged to a Homo sapiens/pre-discovered genus who had deformities and microcephaly (small brain). He also talks a bit about his life experiences in paleo-anthropology and, to me at least, his views are presented in a convincing manner.

When I went onto Wikipedia to check, there was no mention of credible theories against the existence of H. floresiensis.

It all felt very odd, like I had stumbled onto a conspiracy theory. Only, the writer is not a tinfoil hat wearer, but a gentleman with a long career + a PhD in Anthropology, a post at a Medical School in Australia, and (I don’t know this for sure, but probably) an IQ value that matches the average Homo sapiens height, in centimetres (163cm for women and 176.5cm for men, as per WHO statistics.)

So it seems like the consensus has eclipsed the controversy out in the world, and hobbits are around to stay. It does remind me to keep an open mind about subjects though – sometimes the experts can completely disagree with each other.

By the way, another species called Homo longi was discovered in China in 1933, but they have only announced it formally this year! Something about keeping delicate artefacts well hidden during some unhappy wars happening around then.

#2) 3 days left until Human Osteology starts. I’ve decided that human vertebrae have little faces, eg insects or fish or aliens. I’ve illustrated: