Cores and Flakes
Stone-flaking involves striking pieces off a rock. The pieces are called ‘flakes’, and the rock is called a ‘core’. At the most basic level, all stone tools are either cores or flakes. The history of stone technology tracks how humans have refined their stone-flaking techniques to make the specific cores and flakes they needed for tools.
Cores and flakes were first produced in the Lomekwian period in Kenya, about 3.3 million years ago, but systematic and well-controlled stone-flaking was not in place until the Oldowan period in Ethiopia, about 2.6 million years ago. Simple cores and flakes persisted right up until the present day, with more elaborate stone-flaking technologies appended onto this simple foundation.
Reducing a core can involve strategic planning, by striking off flakes in a certain way in anticipation of how you want the core to look many flake-removals into the future. For example, Levallois cores, made early in the evolution of our species, are an example of core reduction that required strategic planning. But simple core reduction can be done without strategic planning, by only worrying about the immediate flake removal, and adjusting to the effects of removing that flake when striking off the next one. This can be done without planning ahead, and the approach is sometimes called ‘least effort’ flaking.