Microscopy for Chronology: Use-Wear Analysis as a Method for Bridging Gaps in Our Understanding of Prehistoric Tool Technology in Island Southeast Asia

Riczar Fuentes1, Ono Rintaro2, Sriwigati3, Nasrullah Aziz3, Harry Octavianus Sofian4, Alfred Pawlik1

1Department of Sociology and Anthropology, Ateneo de Manila University, Philippines

2National Museum of Ethnology, Japan

3Balai Arkeologi Sulawesi Utara (BALAR), Indonesia

4Pusat Penelitian Arkeologi Nasional (ARKENAS), Indonesia

Use-wear analysis has been established as an effective method to address fundamental issues in prehistoric tool technology in Island Southeast Asia (ISEA) such as tool simplicity, bamboo hypothesis, and understanding human adaptation to island environments. Studying prehistoric stone tools in ISEA through the identification and interpretation of microscopic traces is based on the evidence acquired from years of doing fieldwork, experimentation, and actual analysis of artefacts. Although it can and had addressed issues in ISEA, its role in the creation of a chronology for the development of prehistoric technology in the region must be further explored. In this paper, we have assessed use-wear research in the region with the goal of creating a chronological chart based on the results from microscopic analysis and studies. In contrast to other prehistoric regions, a solely morphological-technological analysis of stone tools has proved insufficient for establishing a chronological sequence of the development of prehistoric technologies in ISEA. Therefore, we explore the possibility of utilising results from several use-wear studies. Our goal is to link microscopic studies and functional interpretations of tools with the timings/chronological sequence of prehistoric technologies in ISEA, especially those which are not easily identifiable due to the prevailing simplistic tool morphologies.