7th Experimental Archaeology Conference Abstract – Luc Doyon

Contribution of tool curation in the morphometric variability of Aurignacian projectile points made of antler

Luc Doyon

Département d’Anthropologie, Université de Montréal

In the last two decades, the study of prehistoric technologies has relied on the concept of the “chaîne opératoire”(production sequence) developed by the anthropologist Pierre Lemonnier (1976). The use of this concept has provided archaeologists with a better understanding of the interactions between human agents and the raw materials they transformed.

Aurignacian technology is of particular interest to prehistorians tracing the evolutionary history of the genus Homo. Conceived as an allochthonous cultural entity associated with the arrival of Homo sapiens in Europe, the Aurignacian toolkit is distinguished by the standardization of its armatures used for composite technologies. The widespread adoption of blade production, the uniformity of the lithic blanks produced are two characteristics of Aurignacian technology used by Mellars (1996) to contrast with the Middle Palaeolithic toolkits. Mellars hypothesized that the standardization of material culture denotes important cognitive and cultural changes in anatomically modern populations. However, for projectile technologies made of antler, Knecht (1991, 1997) shows that despite the apparent morphological standardization, part of the metric variability remains to be explained.

This paper is aimed at understanding the contribution of tool curation in the morphometric variability of Aurignacian projectile points made of antler. Experimental and experiential approaches in archaeology are combined in order to identify the natural and cultural sources of variability in the techno-economic scheme of transformation and production of osseous technology. A functional analysis was conducted to identify trends related to types of use-wear, damage and breakage. This approach enables the qualification and quantification of tool repair and curation in the morphometric variability of Aurignacian bone technology and, in turn, allows us to test the degree of standardisation in its production.

A special focus will be directed on identifying the various constraints acting on the mental and cultural templates during the production sequence and their consequences on artefact standardization (Eerkens 2000; Eerkens & Bettinger 2001; Eerkens & Lipo 2005). The experimental results also allow us to reflect upon the cultural transmission of innovation and the relationship between material culture and action through the embodiment of culture and the corporal translation of knowledge (Ingold 2002; Leroi-Gourhan 1964).

 

References

Eerkens, J. W. 2000  Practice makes within 5% of perfect: Visual perception, motor skills, and memory in artifact variation. Current Anthropology 41(4):663-668.
Eerkens, J. W. and R. L. Bettinger. 2001. Techniques for assessing standardization in artifact assemblages: Can we scale material variability? American Antiquity 66(3):493-504.
Eerkens, J. W. and C. P. Lipo. 2005. Cultural transmission, copying errors, and the generation of variation in material culture and the archaeological record. Journal of Anthropological Archaeology 24(4):316-334.
Ingold, T. 2002. The Perception of the Environment: Essays on livelihood, dwelling and skill. Taylor & Francis Group. Routledge, London.
Knecht, H. 1991. Technological innovation and design during the Early Upper Paleolithic : a study of organic projectile technologies, New York University.
Knecht, H.1997. Chapter 8: Projectile Points of Bone, Antler, and Stone; Experimental   Explorations of Manufacture and Use. In Projectile Technology, edited by Knecht, H., pp. 191-212. Plenum Press, New York.
Lemonnier, P. 1976  La description des chaînes opératoires : contribution à l’analyse des systèmes techniques. Techniques et culture 1:100-151.
Leroi-Gourhan, A. 1964. Le geste et la parole: 1. Technique et langage. Sciences d’aujourd’hui. Bibliothèqye Albin Michel Sciences, Paris.
Mellars, P.1996. The Neanderthal legacy: an archaeological perspective from western Europe. Princeton University Press, Princeton, N.J.

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