Stone Tools pp 81-99 | Cite as

Is Curation a Useful Heuristic?

  • Stephen E. Nash
Part of the Interdisciplinary Contributions to Archaeology book series (IDCA)


The heuristic value of the concept of “curation” is examined at two levels. First, Binford’s assertion that Middle Paleolithic stone tool assemblages are “largely non-curated” is tested in an analysis of nominal data from five stratigraphically distinct assemblages from Tabun Cave. The data suggest that behavior commonly described as “curation” was, in fact, present during the Middle Paleolithic. This leads to a more theoretical examination of what exactly “curation” has come to mean in archaeological interpretation. A review of the literature suggests that the “curation” concept has been used to describe and explain a great deal of morphological, technological, and assemblage-level variability with little or no standardization achieved in its usage. In fact, it is evident that “curation” now means vastly different things to different archaeologists. Archaeologists should, at the very least, make explicit their use of the term and concept; and archaeology might be better served if some standardization in usage could be achieved.


Stone Tool Base Camp American Antiquity Lithic Technology Archaeological Literature 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 1996

Authors and Affiliations

  • Stephen E. Nash
    • 1
  1. 1.University of ArizonaTucsonUSA

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