The Palaeolithic record

Thomas Wynn

in The Oxford Handbook of Language Evolution

Published in print November 2011 | ISBN: 9780199541119
Published online September 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in Linguistics

 The Palaeolithic record

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This article deals with some of the major developments in hominin technology, subsistence, social behavior, and cognition, which are outlined by the archaeologists of the Paleolithic. One of the innovative technologies, Mode 1 tools, consists of the three basic varieties of stone tool that include hammers, cores, and flakes. The knapper In Mode 1 technology uses a hammer, which is a roundish hard stone, to strike the edge of another stone, termed a core. Hominins used the sharp flakes to butcher carcasses of medium (antelope-sized) and occasionally large (e.g. giraffe) mammals. Hominins also used stone hammers and cores to smash long bones for marrow, and at some Mode 1 sites the presence of stones with crushed surfaces indicates that the hominins were pounding more than just bones possibly also roots or corms, though pounding meat itself would have rendered it easier to digest. Homo erectus produced a new kind of lithic technology that archaeologists term Mode 2 or Acheulean. All of the Mode 1 elements continue in Mode 2, but were augmented by a very different kind of stone tool termed “biface”. A biface is large stone tool made by trimming the margins of a core or large flake “bifacially”. Bifacial trimming resulted in two types of tool with sturdy cutting edges around most of their margins that include cleavers with an unmodified “bit” at one end and handaxes whose sides converged to a narrow tip or point. Fire also appears to have been a component of Homo erectus technology.

Keywords: hominin technology; Mode 1 tools; biface; Homo erectus; Acheulean

Article.  3862 words. 

Subjects: Linguistics ; Language Evolution

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