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April 2012

Have you ever wondered what you would do if you found a stone artefact in Australia? How do archaeologists correctly identify Aboriginal stone tools?

The Identification of Stone Artefacts in Australia

I was wondering how an Aboriginal stone artefact is identified and what should I do if I find one in Queensland?


Examples of stone artefacts Photo: Clare O’Bryen
QM image
The positive identification of Aboriginal stone artefacts can be difficult, but there are a number of specific features archaeologists look for to determine whether a stone tool was intentionally shaped by human hands.

The stone-working techniques of some flaked stone tools such as flakes, scrapers, and points leave defining features including negative flake scars (the imprint of the removed flake), percussion bulbs (a rippled effect left where the force of impact radiated through the newly exposed surface), and a point of percussion (a mark left at
the point of impact). Other indigenous stone artefacts, including stone-ground tools, hammerstones, and grindstones can also be identified by archaeologists by looking for pitting, wear patterns, striations, and intentionally carved patterns. Grindstones were also used to prepare ochre, and to make and sharpen bone points. 

Residue analysis is a modern scientific technique which can also be used to determine if a tool was used to process biological materials such as plant and animal food.
If you think you may have found a stone artefact, there are a couple of very important things to keep in mind. Firstly, do not move the artefact - no matter how tempting this might be at the time of discovery. Artefacts always reveal the most information when its context is recorded as well – including its exact location and associated geological layer. The next thing to do is to contact DERM (Department of Environmental Resource Management) on 13 QGOV (13 74 68) so their trained staff can then help manage and document the discovery.

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