In archaeology, a lithic core is a distinctive artifact that results from the practice of lithic reduction. In this sense, a core is the scarred nucleus resulting from the detachment of one or more flakes from a lump of source material or tool stone, usually by using a hard hammer percussor such as a hammerstone. The core is marked with the negative scars of these flakes. The surface area of the core which received the blows necessary for detaching the flakes is referred to as the striking platform. The core may be discarded or shaped further into a core tool, such as can be seen in some types of handaxe.
The purpose of lithic reduction may be to rough out a blank for later refinement into a projectile point, knife, or other stone tool, or it may be performed in order to obtain sharp flakes, on which a variety of simple tools can be made. Generally, the presence of a core is indicative of the latter process, since the former process usually leaves no core. Cores may be subdivided into specific types by a lithic analyst. Type frequencies, as well as the general types of materials at an archaeological site, can give the lithic analyst a better understanding of the lithic reduction processes occurring at that site.