Weber fractions, standardisation, and variation in artefact form

Author(s): James Kilpatrick

Year: 2017


Scholars have debated the relevance of variation and standardization in artefact assemblages since the nineteenth century. Variation in artefact assemblages is used for developing typologies and examining temporal changes in artefact form. Standardisation in artefact shape is an important indicator of the cognition of early humans, socio-economic organization, and the emergence of craft specialization. Research into the causal factors of variation include testing humans sensory perceptions, biomechanical studies of our motor skills, and experimental replication. These studies suggest there is a physiological threshold beyond which humans are unable to perceive size differences below 3%. The current proposal is based on an experiment which quantified humans ability to perceive minute size differences in three-dimensional (3D) objects without the aid of an external scale. A handaxe and a Levallois core were laser scanned and 3D printed as a size-scaled series decreasing by 1%. Size ratio tests were administered to 30 participants using the printed models. The experiment demonstrated that humans ability to perceive size variation decreases rapidly below 3% volumetric difference between objects. The results suggest that humans inability to accurately detect minute size differences may explain some of the variation in artefact form introduced into the archaeological record.

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Weber fractions, standardisation, and variation in artefact form. James Kilpatrick. Presented at The 81st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Vancouver, British Columbia. 2017 ( tDAR id: 430202)

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Abstract Id(s): 17173