Functional Studies of Prehistoric Artefacts and their Socio-Economic Significance

Natalia SKAKUN

The work of the commission is devoted to the comprehensive development of experimental and traceological studies of ancient technologies and functions of tools of labour of different prehistoric periods. Its goal is to further improve the methods of traceological analysis through the exchange of new information between specialists in this field of archaeology.

The most relevant areas of research are: the study of manufacturing technologies and functions of tools from various types of stone and organic raw materials, the use of interdisciplinary research (natural scientific methods, ethnography), palaeoeconomic reconstructions, the introduction of new digital technologies and the improvement of optical technology.

Our commission brings together specialists from Eurasian and American archaeologists-traceologists who are engaged in research on ancient technologies and functions of tools of labour from different historical periods, including ethnographic materials. The results of experimental and traceological developments, along with other data, are the most important source for solving many fundamental socio-economic issues of ancient history. Among them are forms of adaptation of human communities to the natural environment, human development of the resource base, reconstruction of various types of ancient economy, and much more.

At present, the use of modern digital technologies and microscopy makes it possible to verify the results of trace analysis, making them more accurate. The active cooperation of traceologists with specialists in the natural sciences (such as palaeobotany, palaeozoology, mineralogy, geophysics, physical methods, chemistry) makes it possible to clarify the types of raw materials that were processed, and the use of ethnographic data makes it possible to more objectively model some processes for the manufacture and use of tools, taking into account cultural traditions (for example, taboos on the use of a particular raw material, or on the type of activity), as well as the peculiarities of climatic conditions, etc.

Under the auspices of the commission, publications of the latest experimental trace studies are prepared, meetings of specialists are held, members of the commission participate in numerous scientific events, summer experimental trace studies are held, at which the above method is popularized among the scientific and student environment, scientifically documented experimental work is carried out, and a reference models is created base for insufficiently studied insufficiently explored tools, lectures are popularizing the method not only among the scientific community, but also among the general public interested in the achievements of archaeological science.

Research and publications


A composite of photographs showing archaeologists undertaking experimental activities.

Popularization of experimental-traceological research

Popularization of experimental-traceological research among young scientists, trainees and students studying archaeology and ethnography. An international traceological section was organized within the framework of the archaeological school of the city of Bolgar, Russia.

A group of people pose for a photograph alongside a pull-up banner.

Monograph publication

Monograph publication on the history of the experimental traceological method in archaeology and the characteristics of modern research.

A composite of images showing scientific equipment and microscope images.

Traceological research

Development and implementation of modern methods of use-wear analyses and the technology of tools’ manufacture in the practice of traceological research Traceology is one of the main methods for identifying the purpose of ancient tools, characteristics of production activities, reconstructions of the features of paleoeconomic systems.

A demonstrator in front of a group points to archaeological objects on a table.

Traces ASIA

Traceology and Lithic Analysis Popularization Workshop: A Sandbox workshop and exhibition for faculty, students and the interested public at the Areté Open House, Ateneo de Manila University, September 19-23, 2022.


Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports 33

Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports - Special Issue: Functional studies of prehistoric artefacts and their socio-economic meaning

Pawlik, A., Andreu Ollé, A., Marquez, B., Longo, L. & Natalia Skakun, N. (eds) 2020. Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports 33. Special Issue: Functional studies of prehistoric artefacts and their socio-economic meaning. Proceedings of the XVIII UISPP World Congress (4–9 June 2018, Paris, France), Sessions XII-1 and XII-2. 


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Université de Bordeaux (France)
Università degli Studi di Siena (Italy)
Małgorzata KOT
Uniwersytet Warszawski (Poland)
Università Ca' Foscari Venezia (Italy)
Institut Català de Paleoecologia Humana i Evolució Social (Spain)
Trishia Gayle PALCONIT
Università degli Studi di Ferrara (Italy)
Pamantasang Ateneo de Manila (Philippines)
Natalia SKAKUN
Institute for the History of Material Culture of the Russian Academy of Sciences (Russia)
Università degli Studi di Torino (Italy)
Liping XUE
Zhejiang University (China)