Novel use of cathodoluminescence to identify differences in source rocks for Late Paleoindian quartzite tools

Robert Legg*, Joyce Neilson, Scott Demel

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)
6 Downloads (Pure)


Heterogeneous quartzite artefact finds from North America's Late Paleoindian period occur in several areas throughout the Northern Great Lakes region. Standard petrographic analysis, back-scatter scanning electron microscopy and cathodoluminescence are used to identify the properties of a regionally abundant, high-quality orthoquartzite stone as compared with high-quality Hixton silicified sandstone from the Silver Mound Archeological District in Jackson, Wisconsin. The results demonstrate the potential for reducing misidentification among material sources, and also exhibit the acutely discerning tendencies of pre-contact peoples. Lithological interpretations of thin sections identify the different properties of the Hixton material. Conversely, Mesnard quartzite, while it functions adequately as a tool stone, is fundamentally compromised of a tightly packed microstructure. This microstructure produces a hard, less tractable material with erratic breakage, possibly explaining Mesnard quartzite's limited distribution prehistorically.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)875-887
Number of pages13
Issue number5
Early online date1 Jul 2020
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2020

Bibliographical note


The authors would like to thank John Still (ACEMAC) for his support with the analysis and two anonymous reviewers for their very helpful reviews.


  • back-scatter scanning electron microscopy
  • cathodoluminescence
  • Hixton silicified sandstone
  • Late Paleoindian
  • orthoquartzite
  • petrographic analysis


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