A 3D morphometric analysis of surface geometry in Levallois cores: patterns of stability and variability across regions and their implications

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Citation: S.J. Lycett, N. von Cramon-Taubadel (2013) A 3D morphometric analysis of surface geometry in Levallois cores: patterns of stability and variability across regions and their implications. Journal of Archaeological Science 40(3):1508–1517 (RSS)



Download: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S030544031200492X

Tagged: stone (RSS), lithic (RSS), Middle Paleolithic (RSS), Levallois (RSS), cores (RSS), Africa (RSS), Europe (RSS), Near East (RSS), India (RSS), language (RSS), platform (RSS), variability (RSS), cultural transmission (RSS), learning (RSS), stability (RSS)


Summary:

Are there significant morphological differences in Levallois cores? Are these differences variable by region? Are these differences observable only on the planform or are they apparent on the flake producing surface? What do these variances and/or stabilities indicate about cultural transmission of the Levallois technology? What insight does this cultural transmission give into Levallois producing hominins? In order to address these issues, Lycett and Cramon-Taubadel analyzed Levallois cores from nine locations spanning Africa, Europe, the Near East, and India.

They limited their analysis to preferential Levallois cores and analyzed these using geometric morphometrics, whereby particular landmarks were mapped out using 3D image capturing to determine the shape of each artifact. This created a means to compare various cores using quantifiable means. They then proceeded to use generalized Procrustes analysis to factor out the affects of size, leaving only the geometric shape for comparison. Fifty-one 3D coordinates, also known as ‘semilandmarks,’ were measured on each core with a Crossbeam Co-ordinate Caliper to obtain these shapes.

As hypothesized, Lycett and Cramon-Taubadel found that the flake production surface of the cores was rather uniform, while the planform showed some variation.

Theoretical and practical relevance:

This analysis displays that there is remarkable similarity in the form of the flaking surface for Levallois cores. Producing such standardized, complicated flake production surfaces indicates that some sort of teaching method may well have been involved. It would follow that in order for teaching to occur, language may have played a role. This is relevant to larger debates revolving around which hominins had language and when, most notably regarding the Neanderthals associated with Levallois technology.

While it is evident that some sort of higher cognitive processes were involved in the production of such standardized Levallois cores, it is problematic to infer language based off of that alone. While language could have been an important component in cultural transmission, learning can also occur without language, as evidenced in other species. The authors are careful to note that while language would certainly have been helpful, the case is not definitive. Certainly one can imagine that such a hands on procedure, even a complicated one, could have been transmitted via gestures and visual learning. That’s not to say that language did not play a part, just that we may not ever really know.