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date: 03 April 2020


  • R. W. Sanderson,
  • Lorenzo Lazzarini,
  • Gordon Campbell,
  • Trevor Proudfoot
  •  and Tim Lees


Stone has been one of the world’s most predominantly used materials for building and sculpture. It has been worked since the Palaeolithic period, when man learnt how to cut flint and related hard stones to produce tools and weapons. Soon after, stone began to be used for carving small sculptures, and it was used in the construction of the earliest domestic dwellings.

The identification of stones (see Technical examination, §VIII, 1) and the determination of their provenance is of great importance. This information not only characterizes the single objects, but also allows archaeologists, art historians and architects to confirm or strengthen their attributions of the works to a certain workshop; to understand how physical properties of stones affected techniques and styles; and to reconstruct the patterns of import, use and commercial trade routes. To know the provenance of stone is also important for the supply of new materials for restorations, substitutions and copies. The following survey defines the major types of stone and describes their properties and distribution, the general techniques of stoneworking and the conservation of stone buildings and objects. For further information on the types and quarries of stone and the history of the techniques used, the reader should consult: (i) the relevant country and civilization surveys in this dictionary under the headings ‘Architecture’, ‘Materials and techniques’ and ‘Sculpture’; and (ii) the index listings under the specific type of stone....

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