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Density, Discard and Distraction: How Do We Form Inferences of Behavior from the Early Pleistocene Record

Author(s): David Braun ; Jonathan Reeves ; Matthew Douglass

Year: 2017

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The discovery and excavation of dense patches of lithic artifacts has spurred discussion about how such features form. Interpretations are often based around the assumption that these reflect locations of targeted hominin use. Despite their assumed significance, there remains the possibility that high density scatters may reflect the vagaries of the formation processes of the Early Pleistocene archaeological record. Here we use a neutral model of the formation of the archaeological record to investigate the significance of archaeological densities at local and global scales. Even when the underlying processes driving the discard of lithic material are random, there is the possibility that high artifact densities can form. Moreover, when investigated at a local scale, distributions of artifact frequencies can appear nonrandom. These results suggest that while hominin behavior was not stochastic, the overprinting of behavior due to time-averaging may cause it to appear so. As such we suggest that Early Stone Age archaeologists should investigate formational processes at multiple scales when using artifact density to develop behavioral inferences. 

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Density, Discard and Distraction: How Do We Form Inferences of Behavior from the Early Pleistocene Record. David Braun, Jonathan Reeves, Matthew Douglass. Presented at The 81st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Vancouver, British Columbia. 2017 ( tDAR id: 431518)


Geographic Keywords

Spatial Coverage

min long: -18.809; min lat: -38.823 ; max long: 53.262; max lat: 38.823 ;

Record Identifiers

Abstract Id(s): 17476

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