The large cutting tools from the South African Acheulean and the question of social traditions

McNabb, John, Binyon, Francesca and Hazelwood, Lee (2004) The large cutting tools from the South African Acheulean and the question of social traditions. Current Anthropology, 45, (5), 653-677. (doi:10.1086/423973).


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Handaxes and cleavers are the keystone of the Acheulean, a stone-tool-making phenomenon which was made for over a million years (ca. < 1.7 to < 0.25 million years). These large cutting tools are considered a product of social learning within cooperating groups of Homo ergaster and Homo heidelbergensis in Africa and Europe. This paper concetrates on data from the Cave of Hearths and six other South African late Early Pleistocene and Middle Pleistocene sites. It argues that the influence of strong social learning which imposes communally sanctioned practices in manufacture and end product is absent. Individuals reproduce what they are already habituated to, but there is no cultural requirement of form or practicethis is negotiated by individuals. Many of the criteria used by archaeologists to identify benchmarks in hominin cognitive development, such as symmetry, need to be reassessed in the context of assemblage-based understandings.

Item Type: Article
Digital Object Identifier (DOI): doi:10.1086/423973
ISSNs: 0011-3204 (print)
Related URLs:
Subjects: T Technology > T Technology (General)
H Social Sciences > HT Communities. Classes. Races
C Auxiliary Sciences of History > CC Archaeology
Divisions : University Structure - Pre August 2011 > School of Humanities > Archaeology
ePrint ID: 39158
Accepted Date and Publication Date:
December 2004Published
Date Deposited: 21 Jun 2006
Last Modified: 31 Mar 2016 12:09

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