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Title: Archaeology and the origins of human cumulative culture: a case study from the earliest Oldowan at Gona, Ethiopia
Authors: Stout, Dietrich
Rogers, Michael J.
Jaeggi, Adrian V.
Semaw, Sileshi
Issue Date: Jun-2019
Publisher: University of Chicago Press
Citation: Current Anthropology, 2019, 60 (3), 309-340
Abstract: The capacity of Homo sapiens for the intergenerational accumulation of complex technologies, practices, and beliefs is central to contemporary accounts of human distinctiveness. However, the actual antiquity and evolutionary origins of cumulative culture are not known. Here we propose and exemplify a research program for studying the origins of cumulative culture using archaeological evidence. Our stepwise approach disentangles assessment of the observed fidelity of behavior reproduction from inferences regarding required learning mechanisms (e.g., teaching, imitation) and the explanation of larger-scale patterns of change. It is empirically grounded in technological analysis of artifact assemblages using well-validated experimental models. We demonstrate with a case study using a toolmaking replication experiment to assess evidence of behavior copying across three 2.6 Ma Oldowan sites from Gona, Ethiopia. Results fail to reveal any effects of raw material size, shape, quality, or reduction intensity that could explain the observed details of intersite technological variation in terms of individual learning across different local conditions. This supports the view that relatively detailed copying of toolmaking methods was already a feature of Oldowan technological reproduction at ca. 2.6 Ma. We conclude with a discussion of prospects and implications for further research on the evolution of human cumulative culture.
ISSN: 0011-3204
DOI: 10.1086/703173
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Type: Article
Appears in Collections:Arqueología

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