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The learning of prehistory of knapping stone

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - PREKARN (The learning of prehistory of knapping stone)

Berichtszeitraum: 2016-07-01 bis 2018-06-30

PREKARN’s research seeks to identify aspects of the mechanics of acquisition in stone knapping, such as social learning and imitation, from a new high-resolution, multidisciplinary perspective. The project has primarily focused on using knapping experimentation and integrated mathematic models with empirical data to identify the technical characters that might yield insight into the learning process in stone knapping.
PREKARN has addressed two research questions:
1) How do we define technological knowledge?
2) How can we trace knowledge and its transfer in the archaeological records?
The research was conducted in two main steps:
a) Experimental lithic programme. The results have identified the technical attributes in lithic artefacts that can be used as proxies for knapper knowledge.
b) Study of archaeological assemblages. The results have identified knapper skill level in the archaeological record.
The project employed a new methodology to define and identify the skill level of the knapper in stone tools. We used an innovative combined qualitative and quantitative approach in knapping sequence and stone tool studies and multivariate statistical analysis in order to identify technological patterns. Our results have opened up a new pathway for the study of the cognitive abilities of prehistoric humans.
The European scientific community has benefited from the data generated during PREKARN thanks to an ambitious publication and presentation plan. The plan included participation in workshops and invitations to conferences in leading European centres. Furthermore, PREKARN has generated social benefits through public conferences and educational projects that encourage the study of human evolution among the new generation.
In order to answer its research questions, PREKARN works through specific objectives linked in a bottom-up orientation. Within these specific objectives, the beneficiary has performed several tasks.
1) The beneficiary designed and carried out a novel knapper experimental lithic programme. This experimental programme took place in two steps: First, a pilot experiment was conducted that aimed to employ and test the methodology that she designed. Second, she developed the formal experimental programme in which experimental archaeology was used to understand the stone tools produced by current-day knappers at each skill level.
2) The beneficiary designed a new methodological approach combining technical characters of the knapping sequence, a diacritical approach, morpho-technical analysis, new characters and lithic refit analysis. These new characters allowed us to define and identify the features characteristics of a novice knapper. She applied statistical analyses and cognitive-processual archaeology to identify the different patterns reflecting knapper knowledge at the individual level.
3) The beneficiary employed a high archaeological-resolution methodology, RMU analysis, including refit analysis, which allowed us to identify the single technical event of one knapper and identify the flakes produced by a single Palaeolithic knapper.
4) The beneficiary applied the new methodology to analyse archaeological flakes produced by individual knapping episodes (one knapper). These patterns allowed us to identify the skill level of individual prehistoric knappers.
5) The beneficiary investigated past knapper knowledge through experimental studies and archaeological stone tool data. She applied archaeological statistical computing to distinguish differences in knapper knowledge. First, she obtained patterns at the population level through the experimental assemblage. Second, she obtained the variability and difference at the individual level within each population level. Third, she compared the individual experimental patterns with the archaeological data and identified the skill level of the single prehistoric knapper.
An important component of the PREKARN project was the research development training held at the UCL (UK) and in archaeological computing in statistics (R and TPS tools) held at the Museum National d’Historie Naturelle.
PREKARN’s results have substantial implications for our understanding of social learning and knowledge transmission among Palaeolithic hunter-gatherers. PREKARN’s methodology has allowed other research teams to identify the skill level of prehistoric knappers at other archaeological sites and obtain additional knowledge patterns. The data generated by PREKARN are significant for the scientific community and have a wider social implication, including adding to our understanding of mechanisms of information transmission and cultural frameworks.
Teaching courses
Experimental photo