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2018-12-13 09:45:08   •   ID: 2058

Are You Experienced ?

Figure 1
Skill: The ability to do something well; expertise. (Oxford Dictionary). A skill is the ability to carry out a task with determined results often within a given amount of time, energy, or both (L. Lambard).

When knapping a Levallois point, (according to principal considerations of Bamforth and Finlay 2008), it is assumed that producing a triangular sharp artifact was the Paleolithic knappers deliberately choice.

In Levallois Point production, skillful production can be defined as a creating a plain, thin, symmetrical, Y-shaped object without being twisted or showing an offset of the axis, that can immediately be used, without secondary retouches.

Figure 2
If retouches are made, they should show a meaningful pattern.

Skill in production begins with the choice of homogeneous raw material, which should be knapped by by material-sparing techniques.

Figure 1 shows three Levallois Points, two are unretouched and the last (Nr. 3) is retouched, from the Rouffignac area (Rouffignac-Saint-Cernin-de-Reilhac, Département Dordogne), made by Neanderthals during MIS5-3, that apparently fulfill the definition of skilled production.

Figure 3
The point shown in Figure 2 is quasi the archetype for a symmetrical point.

The middle point in Figure 1 has some offset of the distal axis without compromising the suggested aim of the knapper. Finally the point shown in Figure 3 has some retouching towards the apical side, most probably a secondary reworking of the tip.

All Levallois points from this set are thin, symmetric and plain and are made from typical homogeneous regional flint, that is abundant in the Vezere Valley and its vicinity.

About theoretical and practical issues, how to define and identify skill in the Archaeological record, the basic text of Bamforth (attached link) is still of relevance. It is not an easy task to extract such informations from refitted debitage, which is obviously characterized by multivariate influences.

Important indications for less skillful stone tool production are “successive step or hinge terminations, overshot flakes, flakes with an undesired morphology, percussor marks attempted too far from the platform edge or on platforms of unsuitable angles.

Of particular interest to this study is that cores knapped by novice or intermediate knappers tend to have a higher rate of unsuccessful flake removals and produce flakes of smaller size
" (Muller and Clarkson 2016).

Another research method to measure different levels of skills is the experimental replication of stone tools which has been widely used to investigate different levels of skills and the transmission of Know-how to others.

Stout et al., used fMRT and experimental knapping of "0ldowan" and "Acheulean" artifacts, found that knapping operations "affected neural activity and functional connectivity in dorsal prefrontal cortex, that effect magnitude correlated with the frequency of correct strategic judgments, and that the frequency of correct strategic judgments was predictive of success in Acheulean, but not Oldowan, toolmaking.

Skills are the matter of research:

  • on an individual level: some people doing things better than others

  • on a group level: members of social some groups are trained better in specific skills than members of other groups

  • on an evolutionary level: specific skills of hominins depend on their cognitive background: The background of H. habilis was another than the Background of H. Heidelbergensis

Figure 4
A distinction is commonly drawn between practical knowledge and knowledgeable practice; between what has been termed savoir-faire- the practical knowledge, influenced by experience, motor skill and age -and knowledgeable practice connaissance - the cognitive level of an individual.

Skills have to be learned. We do not know how ‘teaching’ different from teaching in the modern sense, took place. Aside the very high levels of sophistication, expressed in Daggers from the late Neolithic of Scandinavia or in Solutrean points, which indicate a certain degree of specialization, the learning of more common and less complex techniques depended on the cognitive maturity of an individual, the motivation for Self-learning and learning that involved teachers instructing one or several learners.

Figure 5
It is generally assumed that the teachers came from more experienced family core group members (father / mother / uncle / aunts..).

The last Figures (Figures 4-6) show three Levallois Points from a Middle Paleolithic open air site at Plazac (Dordogne), that were found in immediate proximity to each other during a field walk in the 1950ies. They look as if they were made by one knapper from one raw material block.

They are made from flint that has been broadly used during the Paleolithic in the Vezere Valley. Tools made from this flint normally are qualitatively not different from tools made from other flint varieties- good examples are known from Le Moustier or La Rochette.

Figure 6
The artifacts from Figure 4 show, compared with the first series, a poor performance of the knapper.

The raw material is more inhomogeneous with the consequence that Nr. 3 in Figure 4 is not a Levallois point in the strict sense, because the tip is compromised by a burin like cortical edge.

Nr. 1 and 2 are quite thick and clumsy. In consequence the knapper tried to regularize the lateral edges by abrupt retouches and additionally produced a nonconformance notch, seen more in detail on Figure 5. If retouching was made to improve the scraping / cutting properties-it failed because this operation resulted rather in a bilateral backing.

Figure 6 shows a lateral view of the the three points, especially demonstrating the relative thickness of the blanks and the retouches.

Could the raw material be the limiting factor for poor results? Eren et al (2011) in an experimental study showed, that the raw material did not significantly influence the results of Levallois reduction by an experienced / skilled knapper.

My interpretation would be, that a Novice in flint knapping at Plazac chose a non-optimal block of raw material and had a lot of trouble to produce regular thin and "elegant" points, comparable two those of the first series from the nearby Rouffiniac.