In archaeology, a hammerstone is a hard cobble used to strike off lithic flakes from a lump of tool stone during the process of lithic reduction. The hammerstone is a rather universal stone tool which appeared early in most regions of the world including Europe, India and North America. This technology was of major importance to prehistoric cultures before the age of metalworking.
A hammerstone is made of a material such as sandstone, limestone or quartzite, is often ovoid in shape (to better fit the human hand), and develops telltale battering marks on one or both ends. In archaeological recovery, hammerstones are often found in association with other stone tool artifacts, debitage and/or objects of the hammer such as ore. The modern use of hammerstones is now mostly limited to flintknappers and others who wish to develop a better understanding of how stone tools were made.
Hammerstones are or were used to produce flakes and hand axes as well as more specialist tools from materials such as flint and chert. They were applied to the edges of such stones so that the impact forces caused brittle fractures, and loss of flakes for example. They were also widely used to reduce the bulk of other hard stones such as jade, jadeite and hornstone to make polished stone tools. A good example is the hornstone found in the English Lake District used to make polished axes during the early Neolithic period, and known as the Langdale axe industry.
Hammerstones were used widely in crushing mineral ores such as malachite during the Chalcolithic period, the earliest part of the Bronze age, and cassiterite prior to smelting of tin. Iron ores would have been crushed to powder in a similar way during the Iron Age. Such crushing was needed to hasten and encourage reduction in the furnaces where charcoal was the main reducing agent.
- Charles Joseph Singer, Richard Raper, Trevor Illtyd Williams, A History of Technology, 1954, Clarendon Press
- Neelima Dahiya, Arts and Crafts in Northern India: From the Earliest Times to C. 200 B.C., 1986, D.K. Publishers
- Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology, Papers of the Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology, Harvard University, 1904
- C. Michael Hogan, Los Osos Back Bay, Megalithic Portal, editor A. Burnham (2008)