Pedagogy in the Paleolithic? The Influence of Verbal Teaching on Stone Knapping Skill Acquisition

Author(s): Megan Beney; Shelby Putt; Dietrich Stout

Year: 2018


Teaching is uniquely developed in humans and was likely critical to the emergence of cumulative culture. However, the importance of various forms of teaching, including the use of language, in transmitting Paleolithic skills like stone knapping is less understood. Here we examine the knapping behaviors of 17 subjects who learned to make Oldowan and Acheulian stone tools from watching video demonstrations either with verbal instruction or without sound. Despite intriguing differences in brain activity (measured with fNIRS) between these groups, the mode of social transmission has yet to reveal significant effects on handaxe morphology, suggesting that verbal teaching may not have been necessary for the social reproduction of early stone toolmaking skill. We coded video-recordings of subject performance using BORIS event-logging software and a knapping ethogram to test for possible behavioral differences between conditions that might explain observed differences in brain activity and indicate influences of teaching on early-stage skill acquisition that are difficult to detect from artifacts. These data allow us to test for differences in the frequency and sequential structure of knapping actions across conditions and individuals, potentially guiding further artifact analyses and providing a more detailed picture of the influence of verbal teaching on knapping skill acquisition.

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Pedagogy in the Paleolithic? The Influence of Verbal Teaching on Stone Knapping Skill Acquisition. Megan Beney, Shelby Putt, Dietrich Stout. Presented at The 82nd Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Washington, DC. 2018 ( tDAR id: 444459)

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Abstract Id(s): 22429