Learning to think: using experimental flintknapping to interpret prehistoric cognition

Author(s): Nada Khreisheh

Year: 2015


The analysis of stone tools has long been a technique used when addressing prehistoric cognition. While experimental studies have been used extensively as a tool that can give information on these technologies, these studies have often been short term and involved a small number of participants. This paper uses the examples of two longer term multi-disciplinary studies of experimental flintknapping, involving the teaching of early knapping technologies, to demonstrate the value of experimental archaeology in providing information that can be related to hominin cognition. In these studies volunteers without previous knapping experience were taught skills in some of the earliest known technologies with the aim that they would achieve expert levels of ability. Through careful mapping and assessment of skill level together with analysis of materials produced, a picture of learning in different technologies could be constructed. This information has been related to hominin cognition and the evolution of modern human brains and intelligence to build a picture of the different cognitive requirements of the technologies assessed. Analysis of materials allow this experimental work to be tied in with the archaeological record, indicating aspects of this that can be analysed when seeking evidence of early hominin cognitive processes.

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Cite this Record

Learning to think: using experimental flintknapping to interpret prehistoric cognition. Nada Khreisheh. Presented at The 80th Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, San Francisco, California. 2015 ( tDAR id: 395518)