The term preform is currently being used for various flint objects which were not finished. The preforms provide a series of individual examples of the lithic technology indicating steps followed in the manufacturing process. Preforms are not tools as such, but they represent resources of raw material which could be transformed into a desired tool or implement. Obviously, the conversion of a chunk of flint obtained at the quarry source into a satisfactory projectile point or knife requires a series of reduction stages on behalf of the flint knapper. This usually requires the initial reduction of the flint block into a crude biface, the gradual thinning of the biface, and finally the shaping and completion of the desired tool. Consequently, a preform varies considerably in shape and the amount of work done, depending upon the stage of lithic reduction represented by the artifact. In one sense, a block of flint, a core, or a single flake that could be used for making an artifact might be termed a preform.
The term as generally used, however, refers to a specimen in which some initial flaking or shaping has been done thus separating it from the unmodified block or flake of flint. The preform may vary from a crudely roughed out quarry biface to a carefully shaped and
thinned projectile point blank that has been completed except for forming the notches (Figure 1).
Preforms are a common artifact and are especially plentiful at lithic workshops or locations where flint knapping was done. Many of them, however, were broken during the manufacturing process or were discarded because of defects or flaws in the flint. Consequently, many preforms represent unsuccessful attempts to make specific artifacts and were thrown away by the flint knapper.
Identification of preforms is not always easy as they can be confused with crude tools or other kinds of artifacts. They are commonly misclassified as knives because of their form and lack of hafting areas. Preforms by definition, however, are unfinished items and not tools and will not display evidence for use wear or indications of tool service. A crude knife, in contrast, should have evidence of having been used as a knife.
Preforms are found as a common artifact on all archaeological sites in all sections of Oklahoma. Examples representing the various stages of manufacture are instructive in establishing the lithic technology of the makers involved.