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2023-11-29 14:31:58   •   ID: 2367

Better too much once than too little once: Redundancy in the Paleolithic

Mauretanian Sahara (Adrar-Wikimedia Commons)
Figure 1
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Several Localities especially in East Africa and the Sahara are characterized by large quantities of techno-typologically almost identical artifacts.

Examples of this development are shown in Figures 1-5 (Aterian Points (Figure 1-3 from the Mauretanien Sahara) or LCTs (Figure 4-5 from Olorgesailie / Kenya).

However, we are usually unable to distinguish whether such accumulations are the result of a short-term occupation with intensive lithic production or palimpsests that have been produced over a longer period of time. However, reports on well-studied sites suggests both scenaria may be possible.

If we assume that larger quantities of artifacts were produced in a limited time frame, it could be a case of provisioning specific place in anticipation of future needs (sensu Kuhn). Such behavior implies future planning, which, to the best of our knowledge, can already be assumed even for archaic Homo sp.

While palimpsest formation played a major role in Olorgesaillie, the Aterian artifacts, which by the way have a very specific "style", were found together on a surface location as if ordered and not collected.

"Better too much once than too little once" are common sayings that describe quite well what is hidden behind the term redundancy. Namely, identical or comparable things are available at least twice in parallel.

In the context of living in the Paleolithic, this ensured that the necessary lithics and the knowledge about their production remained available even in the event of loss.

Figure 4
Copies of a tool do not necessarily have to be identical. Deviations in the design can enable a flexible and rapid response to specific problems, when needed. Parallel pathways and variability in lithic production may therfore better described as safety mechanisms that may be used in some circumstances and not others.

However, "redundancy" is sometimes used in everyday language as unnecessary process or tasks that can be removed without affect the output.

Drawing analogies with biological systems is sometimes dangerous, but in this case quite appropriate. In Biology, Redundancy is fundamental for all organisms to cope with environmental stress and harmful mutations. It plays a vital role in all key processes from genetics to development, immunity, nervous systems, musculoskeletal systems and visual processing.

On a deeper level, Genetic redundancy means that two or more genes are performing the same function and that inactivation of one of these genes has little or no effect on the biological phenotype. Such a genetic backup seems to be of major importance, otherwise it would have disappeared during evolution.

In many ways, the survival of organisms is ensured by the presence of large reserve capacities. The back-up / redundancy in lithic production may have been little different in the effects on survival of early hunter-gatherers....