Hunter Gatherer Research

Core sharing

The transmission of knowledge of stone tool knapping in the Lower Palaeolithic, Qesem Cave (Israel)

Hunter Gatherer Research (2017), 3, (3), 367–399.

Abstract

This study presents evidence of possible early human collaboration – the sharing of procured stone and of knowledge of lithic technology in the Middle Pleistocene at Qesem Cave (Israel). The results of a techno-typological analysis of lithic cores used for knapping stone tools reveal that some cores were shared among several knappers, both experienced and less experienced ones, c 400 ka years ago. This ‘core sharing’ provided inexperienced knappers with the opportunity to practise and acquire knapping knowledge in an efficient way. Working on previously used but not fully exploited cores enabled beginners to acquire motor skills while learning about the technological traditions practised within the group. This kind of ‘teaching through sharing’ behaviour appears to have been a repeated pattern throughout the 200 ka of the cave’s inhabitancy, and constituted one of a number of learning pathways that have been observed in Qesem. Sharing mechanisms are thought to have played an important role in human evolution. The flint cores presented in this study offer a reflection of a knowledge-sharing culture, and their presence reveals aspects of the social relations and norms of this early society.

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References

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Gopher, A, Parush, Y, Assaf, E & Barkai, R 2016. Spatial aspects as seen from a density analysis of lithics at Middle Pleistocene Qesem Cave: preliminary results and observations. Quaternary International 398:103–117. Google Scholar

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Grimm, L 2000. Apprentice flintknapping. Relating material culture and social practice in the Upper Paleolithic. In Sofaer Derevenski, J (ed) Children and material culture. London: Routledge:53–71. Google Scholar

Hawkes, K, O’Connell, JF & Jones, NB 2001. Hadza meat sharing. Evolution and Human Behavior 22(2):113–142. Google Scholar

Hayden, B & Cannon, A 1984. Interaction inferences in archaeology and learning frameworks of the Maya. Journal of Anthropological Archaeology 3(4):325–367. Google Scholar

Henrich, J 2015. The secret of our success: how culture is driving human evolution, domesticating our species, and making us smarter. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. Google Scholar

Herzlinger, G, Goren-Inbar, N & Grosman, L 2017. A new method for 3D geometric morphometric shape analysis: the case study of handaxe knapping skill. Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports 14:163–173. Google Scholar

Hewlett, B 2014. Hunter-gatherer childhoods in the Congo Basin. In Hewlett, B (ed) Hunter-gatherers of the Congo Basin: cultures, histories, and biology of African pygmies. New Brunswick, NJ: Transactions:245–269. Google Scholar

Hewlett, B, Fouts, H, Boyette, A & Hewlett, B 2011. Social learning among Congo Basin hunter-gatherers. Royal Society B 366:1168–1178. Google Scholar

Hewlett, BL & Hewlett, Bs 2012. Hunter-gatherer adolescence. In Hewlett, BL (ed) Adolescent identity: evolutionary, cultural, and developmental perspectives. New York: Routledge:73–101. Google Scholar

Hogberg, A 2008. Playing with flint: tracing a child’s imitation of adult work in lithic assemblages. Journal of Archaeological Method and Theory 15:112–131. Google Scholar

Isaac, GL 1978. Food-sharing and human evolution: archaeological evidence from the Plio-Pleistocene of East Africa. Journal of Anthropological Research 34:311–325. Google Scholar

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Assaf, Ella