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Performativity and Pedagogy: the Effect of Verbal and Nonverbal Instruction on Experimental Acheulian Handaxe Symmetry

Author(s): Shelby Putt ; Emma Dellopoulos

Year: 2015

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The Acheulian techno-complex is comprised mostly of bifacal handaxes, which became increasingly symmetrical through time, especially after 400kya. Symmetry has recently been considered a highly significant aspect of the Acheulian toolkit. It has many potential opportunities for a better understanding of the evolution of cognition in early Homo; however, little is known about how this complex skill was transmitted. Could the increasing symmetry of handaxes in the archaeological record be evidence for the introduction of language instruction? We conducted an experiment with novice flintknappers to investigate whether spoken language instruction has any effect on symmetry. Using the Flip Test, we acquired the index of asymmetry for 172 bifaces made by 28 individuals. These individuals learned the skill either through verbal instruction or nonverbal observation. Overall, we found no significant difference in symmetry scores between the verbal and nonverbal groups; however, only the bifaces produced by the nonverbal group became significantly more symmetrical over time. These results indicate that not only is language instruction unnecessary for the transmission of this complex skill, but language may actually be a hindrance. Thus, the introduction of linguistic instruction was probably not the variable responsible for the increased symmetry of handaxes in the archaeological record.

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Performativity and Pedagogy: the Effect of Verbal and Nonverbal Instruction on Experimental Acheulian Handaxe Symmetry. Emma Dellopoulos, Shelby Putt. Presented at The 80th Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, San Francisco, California. 2015 ( tDAR id: 398079)


Spatial Coverage

min long: -104.634; min lat: 36.739 ; max long: -80.64; max lat: 49.153 ;

Arizona State University The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation National Science Foundation National Endowment for the Humanities Society for American Archaeology Archaeological Institute of America