School of History, Classics and Archaeology


The Cutting Edge

An ancient object with a cutting edge.

The Cutting Edge project brings together different sources of information relating to several important archaeological and World Cultures collections, housed mainly within Newcastle University’s Great North Museum: Hancock, but including wider collections within Tyne and Wear Archives and Museums (TWAM).

These data (including high-resolution images) refer to stone and metal tools with sharp edges including axes, knives and weapons of various historical periods. The data have been used to create a new online archive to support teaching and research into ancient and historic artefacts with cutting edges.

This innovative project allows the comprehensive study of over 1000 objects, and in particular the assessment and analysis of their use-wear patterns, by scholars and members of the public worldwide.

Use-wear and micro-wear analysis have long been applied to lithic and osseous materials and, more recently, to prehistoric copper-alloy tools and weapons. A growing number of scholars has also developed an interest in the chaîne opératoire of archaeological artefacts including their manufacturing methods, post-manufacturing transformations, use-life, and post-depositional history.

These studies can yield tremendous insights into the life-histories and social biographies of material culture. However, artefact research is seriously hindered by a shortage of online metadata archives including high-resolution pictures of the objects, their hafting areas, and their cutting edges. This is especially important for metalwork, where surface corrosion may seriously hinder any possibility of detecting manufacturing and use traces.

The online archive consists of separate systems for accessing, aggregating, and presenting the metadata. The user interface offers different contexts in which to view collections. These include a geo-locational view that can plot artefact find locations onto different map styles and incorporate different third-party datasets, and also a timeline view allowing the user to see where an artefact sits in human history.

The project aims to respond to the growing demand for metadata archives by artefact specialists and use-wear analysts worldwide. By providing high-resolution photographs of the objects including close-ups of their cutting edges, the archive makes for the first time possible to assess the potential of use-wear analysis from remote stations.

This is especially important for metal objects as surface corrosion may seriously hinder any possibility of detecting manufacturing and use traces.

Visit our blog on the project.