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Lithic Microwear and Residue Analysis

The Lithic Microwear Research Laboratory is based in the School of Archaeological Sciences at the University of Bradford under the direction of Dr Randolph Donahue.

The laboratory carries out pure and applied research and contractual work for the archaeological community. Research focuses on developing innovative approaches to enhance the power of the technique, on exploring the potential of new applications, and to analyse artefact assemblages.

Latest news

Adrian Evans has been elected to the scientific committee of the third International Conference on Surface Metrology to be held in Annecy, France. The conference runs from 21-23 March 2012 and will host papers on a wide range of subjects related to surface analysis, including the study of archaeological materials. More details on the conference website (external link).


Lithic microwear analysis is the microscopic study of wear and fracture scars that occur on stone artefacts. Experimental studies demonstrate that microscopic wear and fracture scar characteristics resulting from tool use vary systematically according to the worked material (e.g., hide, wood, meat, bone) and to the applied forces and motions (e.g. cutting, scraping, wedging).

The development of principles regarding these relationships enables microwear analysts to infer the past use or uses of lithic artefacts with greater precision and accuracy than through reliance on either ethnographic analogues or macroscopic attribute analysis, which has proved inadequate even at identifying used pieces. It can also be applied to understanding natural formation processes.

The current method applied at our laboratory is based on a combination of microscopic techniques and, where applicable, non-destructive chemical analysis techniques.

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