Determining Hominid Handedness in Lithic Debitage: A Review of Current Methodologies

Author(s): Lana Ruck

Year: 2015


Lithic analysis is of great value for understanding hominid biological, cognitive, and cultural evolution, but analyses of handedness in lithics are rare, despite their potential to elucidate the evolution of human lateralities in the body and the brain. This paper will present results of an experiment to determine handedness in lithic materials. In a blind study on debitage (n=631) from Acheulean handaxes created by right- and left-handed flintknappers, several flake characteristics significantly indicated handedness, with a binary logistic regression correctly predicting handedness for 71.7% of the flakes. However, some characteristics were indistinguishable for handedness, and regressions account for little variability in the data overall. This is likely a result of personal knapping styles, as additional analyses show that individual knappers associate to discrete features better than handedness does. These results are congruent with general issues in analyzing evidence of handedness, but are more conclusive than many of the previous studies. Continued improvement of these methodologies will enable analysis of Paleolithic assemblages in the future, with the ultimate goal of tracking population-level hominid handedness rates through time and using them as a proxy for cognitive development and language evolution.

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Determining Hominid Handedness in Lithic Debitage: A Review of Current Methodologies. Lana Ruck. Presented at The 80th Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, San Francisco, California. 2015 ( tDAR id: 395512)