The Acquisition of Skill in Early Flaked Stone Technologies: An Experimental Study
Khreisheh, Nada Nazem
Thesis or dissertation
University of Exeter
Reason for embargo
A number of articles that stem from the results of the project that this thesis is part of are still to be published.
This thesis describes the experimental work carried out as part of the Learning to be Human Project, investigating skill and learning in early flaked stone technologies. A group of 16 volunteers were studied as they learnt skills in Oldowan style flaking, Acheulean handaxe technology and Levallois preferential flake technologies. Aptitude, practice hours and hours spent in taught sessions were recorded and skill in each of these technologies was assessed at regular intervals. This information was used to answer questions concerning the acquisition of high level skill in these technologies, the role of practice, teaching and aptitude in determining skill in terms of connaissance and savoir-faire and the archaeological visibility of skill. At a more in depth level the significance of these findings for cognitive capacities of early hominins and the evolution of modern human brains and intelligence was assessed. The results of these experiments allowed the identification of the greater impact of teaching on Acheulean handaxe and Levallois technology compared to Oldowan style flaking. Technologically focussed teaching was shown to be essential for achieving high level skill in handaxe technology while all knapping contributed to the skill achieved in Oldowan style flaking and Levallois technology. In terms of aptitude, previous craft experience and contact with flaked stone assemblages most affected skill achieved in handaxe and Oldowan technologies while spatial ability best determined skill in Levallois. The findings of the connaissance and savoir-faire analysis have indicated that the differences seen between Oldowan and Acheulean technology are predominantly physical in nature, while the differences between Levallois and the earlier technologies are cognitive. This suggests a greater cognitive capacity for the Neanderthal Levallois manufacturers in contrast with the earlier hominin species. The results have, however, highlighted problems with a strict dichotomy between physical and cognitive skills. A number of material markers that could be related to skill were identified. Future work has been identified that could provide a fuller understanding of these findings.
Leverhulme Trust Fund
PhD in Archaeology