Assessing Behavioural Complexity Through Decision Making in Lithic Technology

04th December 2013

Muller et al 2013Recognising cognitive and behavioural complexity in the archaeological record has become a key concern in recent palaeoanthropological research, which typically focuses on such traits as personal adornment, art, ochre, carved bone, long distance exchange, use of adhesives, complex projectiles and trapping technology. This poster instead explores the degree of complexity involved in different kinds of stone tool manufacture such as bipolar, discoidal, bifacial, levallois and blade core technology. Determining where and when new and more complex forms of stone reduction first appeared has implications for the evolution of cognitive complexity and the modernity debate. The method involves observations of replicative flint knapping experiments by an expert knapper familiar with each reduction strategy. By recording the duration of stages and the weight of resultant flakes, and evaluating the degree of recursion, planning, preparation, corrections and success, the technological complexity of each reduction sequence can be assessed. Preliminary results suggest that levallois flaking is empirically no less complex than blade technology on the grounds that they both involve similar levels of investment in preparatory and strategic steps. This finding adds to the growing body of evidence that situates the period of most significant growth in behavioural complexity within the Middle Palaeolithic or MSA rather than the Upper Palaeolithic or LSA. The results also bring into question the notion that complex behaviour is unique to anatomically modern humans, as both Neanderthals and modern humans employed levallois and blade technologies.

The citation for this poster is:

Muller, A., C. Clarkson and C. Shipton 2013 Assessing Behavioural Complexity Through Decision Making in Lithic Technology. Poster presented at the AAA Annual Conference, 2-4 December, Coffs Harbour.

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