Levallois, Learning, and Lithic Variation: Results from Porcelain Flintknapping Experiments


The ability to transmit cultural information with high-fidelity across generations is a defining trait of modern humans. It is unclear, however, how and when this adaptation emerged in the human lineage. The earliest forms of human technology—stone artifacts—required knappers to understand raw material mechanics, as well as geometry (volume reduction, angles), and physics. Thus, it is often assumed that the spread of lithic technologies involved some degree of information transmission. However, archaeologists lack systematic methods to study the transmission of information from lithic palimpsests. A growing interest in this topic has emphasized design theory (Carr 1995), breaking down lithic technology into a series of independent domains of lithic production (Tostevin 2012) (e.g. core orientation, platform preparation). The research presented here used controlled knapping experiments to understand the influence of varied social learning conditions on these technological domains. The ultimate goal is to define attributes that can be used as proxies for information transmission in Paleolithic assemblages. We simulated two social learning conditions: emulation (lower-fidelity) and imitation (higher-fidelity) as novice knappers were taught Levallois technology. Results suggest that attributes associated with core orientation are more strongly correlated with degree of information transfer than attributes of toolkit morphology.

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Levallois, Learning, and Lithic Variation: Results from Porcelain Flintknapping Experiments. Kathryn Ranhorn, David R. Braun, Francys Subiaul, Alison Brooks. Presented at The 82nd Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Washington, DC. 2018 ( tDAR id: 444458)

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Spatial Coverage

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

Record Identifiers

Abstract Id(s): 21302