7th Experimental Archaeology Conference abstract – Page and Khreishneh

Evaluating Knapping Skill and Exploring the Cultural Transmission of Lithic Artefact Traditions.

Stuart Page and Nada Khreishneh

This joint paper presents two main research strands. Firstly it outlines a process for evaluating skill acquisition, by defining the difference between cognitively understanding knapping concepts and possessing the physical ability to actually execute them. This is achieved by training a group of volunteers to produce experimentally knapped examples of different lithic tool types and evaluating their performance. The second strand explains how the use of multi-generational transmission chains, often used in psychology, to explore the evolution of artefact form, can provide an experimental, Darwinian framework for the examination of how skill, copying error and social transmission strategies may have influenced the evolution of Palaeolithic technology. Using contemporary flint knappers, the first experiment focuses on blade technology; the remaining three experiments examine how the above factors likely impacted on Achuelean handaxe form. This paper presents findings from a completed study on blade technology and also reports progress to date on experiments being conducted on the manufacture of Acheulean handaxe forms. This is the first time this psychological methodology has been applied to an archaeologically attested technology such as flint knapping. Used in an experimental setting, it provides a controlled environment in which to examine how micro-evolutionary aspects of the knapping process may have possessed the potential to create different evolutionary trajectories in lithic artefact form.









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