Retouched Flakes

When a flake is trimmed or reduced by flaking, archaeologists refer to it as ‘retouched’. Retouching was often done to sharpen or repair a tool, or to modify its use.

Retouching was practiced by our earliest stone-flaking ancestors.  These tools are found in Oldowan sites at Olduvai Gorge in Africa, and they were particularly common in the Karari Industry, dating to ca. 1.4 million years ago.  Retouched flakes were an element of most stone-flaking technologies right up to the recent past.

Retouching was most often applied unifacially, by striking blows against the flake blank’s ventral surface to remove flakes from the dorsal surface.  The edge-angle between the ventral and dorsal surfaces is ideal for this.  Occasionally flakes were retouched bifacially, to both faces along the one edge.  Retouching was usually done by percussion using a hammerstone, although sometimes pressure flaking was used.

Retouching was done for a variety of reasons.  Although a stone flake is sharpest when first struck from a core, retouching can repair an edge damaged or worn through use, or gummed-up by the material being worked.  Conversely, retouching a razor-sharp edge can steepen it, making it less likely to cut the fingers, so in this case retouching was applied opposite to the cutting edge.

Burren adze with resin 1

Hafted Retouched Flake

Burren adze with resin 2

Hafted Retouched Flake

Burren adze with resin 3

Hafted Retouched Flake

Burren adze with resin 4

Hafted Retouched Flake

Large backed flake

Retouched (Backed) Flake

Retouched flake, propeller

Retouched Flake

Retouched flake 1, SE Qld

Retouched Flake

Retouched flake VRD Darrell Lewis

Retouched Flake

Retouched flake Tjimari Lewis

Retouched Flake, Tjimari

Steep-edged scraper, Australia

Steep-Edged Scraper

Retouched flake, Tasmania

Steep-Edged Scraper

Thumbnail scraper, Australia

Thumbnail Scraper

Tula adze 1

Tula Adze

Tula adze slug 1

Tula Adze Slug

Tula adze slug Inca Creek 1

Tula Adze Slug

Liang Bua perforator

Retouched Flake

Retouched flake with residue, Indonesia

Retouched Flake with Residue

Jomon stemmed scraper revised

Stemmed Scraper

Fan scraper, Jordan

Fan Scraper

Fan scraper, Egypt

Side-Blow Knife

Burin, Norway


Burin, France


Burin, Kostenki 12


End scraper, France

End Scraper

End scraper, Kostenki 17

End Scraper

Gunflint UK 2


End scraper, North Carolina

End Scraper

Hafted scraper, Alaska

Hafted Scraper