Stone Artifacts

The use of stone tools in Ontario spans a vast timeline, reflecting the technological advancements and cultural changes of Indigenous peoples over thousands of years. The evidence for stone tools in Ontario dates back to the Paleolithic period, approximately 13,000 to 9,000 years ago.

Hammerstone Anvil Stone J124

Non-artifactual Stone

Non-artifactual Fossil

13,000 BCE to 1610 CE

The earliest evidence includes distinctive spear or dart points characterized by fluted bases. These points were used for big-game hunting. This evolved into a broader tool kit by around 10,000 years ago with notched and stemmed projectile points, as well as groundstone tools. The period between 8,000-4,500 years ago witnessed increased regional diversity and specialization, with the emergence of side-notched and other point types, reflecting a sophisticated adaptation to various tasks. The use of groundstone flourished for decorative and ceremonial items such as beads, gorgets, pipes and birdstones.

The introduction of the bow and arrow by around 3000 years ago also significantly impacted stone point technology. Although people also made purposely crafted stone tools like scrapers, drills, and groundstone axes, they also often used expedient single use tools out of stone flakes.

1610 CE to Present

Following European contact in Ontario, stone artifact technologies underwent significant changes. The introduction of metal tools led to a decline in the production and practical use of stone tools, as Indigenous communities increasingly adopted iron knives, axes, and other metal implements for daily tasks. However, this period also saw the persistence of ceremonial and symbolic stone artifacts, including elaborately carved items like effigy pipes, showcasing a cultural continuity that blended traditional Indigenous artistry with new materials and influences from European trade.

Materials often mistaken for stone artifacts:

Many different objects and materials are often mistaken for stone artifacts. It’s important to remember that objects only become artifacts once they’ve been used and/or manipulated by humans. Below is a list of materials that get confused for artifactual stone:

  1. Geofacts: Naturally shaped stones or rocks that may appear to be intentionally modified but are a result of geological processes rather than human craftsmanship.
  2. Pseudofossils: Natural formations, such as concretions or mineral deposits, that can resemble organic remains or artifacts but are formed through non-human processes.
  3. Weathered or Altered Rocks: Rocks that have undergone natural weathering or alteration, leading to shapes that may be mistaken for intentional modification.
  4. Modern Debris: Contemporary materials, including trash or discarded items, which may be erroneously identified as archaeological artifacts if not properly contextualized.
  5. Roots or Woody Material: Intricately shaped roots or fragments of wood that can occasionally resemble intentionally modified objects.
  6. Recent Animal Bones: Non-artifactual bones from recent animals that were not modified by human activity but may be mistaken for archaeological remains.
  7. Recent Plant Material: Natural or modified plant fragments that may be confused with artifacts, especially if they have undergone weathering or alteration.
  8. Mineral Deposits: Hardened mineral formations that can take on shapes resembling artifacts but are formed through geological processes.
  9. Contemporary Building Materials: Construction materials such as concrete, brick, or industrial slag that may be misidentified as archaeological artifacts.
  10. Cultural Features: Natural features or patterns in the landscape that may be mistaken for intentional human modifications, especially when viewed out of context.