Modelling the Effects of Knapper Decision-making and Social Learning on Flake Assemblage Variability


Paleolithic archaeologists are keen to infer the means by which flintknapping knowledge was acquired and transmitted among past toolmakers from lithic assemblages. The inferences generated from recent studies, which tackle this issue with a variety of analytical approaches, are often fraught with equifinality because the same range of lithic variability can be explained by multiple learning scenarios. To help address this issue, we examine the extent to which different knapper decision-making processes result in recognizably different lithic assemblages. Our agent-based model simulates the formation of a flake assemblage over a range of knapping options, with each option marked by variable parameters of flake size, utility, and failure risk. The decision-making process for choosing the desired knapping option at each time step is set to resemble that expected under either emulation (copying the final form) or imitation (copying the production steps). Results indicate that an imitative decision-making process can achieve higher rates of successful flake production than an emulative process when the assessment error of the available knapping options is large. The findings help connect emergent properties of a lithic assemblage to different forms of knapper decision-making, with implications for inferring past social learning mechanisms from the stone artefact record.

Cite this Record

Modelling the Effects of Knapper Decision-making and Social Learning on Flake Assemblage Variability. Sam Lin, Shannon McPherron, Luke Premo, Claudio Tennie. Presented at The 81st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Vancouver, British Columbia. 2017 ( tDAR id: 431525)

Record Identifiers

Abstract Id(s): 15808