Assemblage Stone Tools From the Term Paper

  • Length: 9 pages
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  • Subject: Evolution
  • Type: Term Paper
  • Paper: #96222913

Excerpt from Term Paper :

Dibble also suggested "scraper types might represent stages of core reduction sequence, with intensity of utilization as a major causal factor." In 1990, Rolland and Dibble agreed "that Middle Paleolithic assemblage variability is continuous in nature" and "that raw material variability and intensity of occupation are the principal factors underlying Middle Paleolithic assemblage variability." Dibble asked whether Bordes' typology reflected arbitrary temporal slices in a continuum of variability in 1991, and also the factors underlying this variability. What Rolland and Dibble argued about was whether "most of the significantly represented Middle Paleolithic tool types represent stages in the reduction of tools due to resharpening and rejuvenation...." (After an edge is dull, the tool may be retouched on that edge, or another edge may be sharpened, producing a different type of tool. Dibble contended that intensity of utilization is a causal factor of variation, from raw material quantity, accessibility and quality and from the climate and its effects on the mobility of the group.

Bordes described four types of scrapers differentiated by the placement of retouching along the edge. They differ in the number of retouched edges and the relation to the axis of the flake. "The four types are (1) single-edged scrapers with one retouched lateral edge, (2) double scrapers with two non-adjoining retouched edges, (3) convergent scrapers with two retouched edges forming a point, and (4) transverse scrapers with the retouched edge opposite the striking platform." (Bordes p. 802)

In Dibble's view these can be seen as a sequence of reuse of the same tools. Climate and environmental changes are another explanation. Mousterian industries existed for 200,000 years, during which time there were huge changes in climate and fauna. Adapting to these changes would have meant changes in the toolkits. And again, according to Trinkhaus, a behavioral model replaced the Mousterian variation of ethnic-tradition, with the variation viewed as a response to a variety of factors, including availability of raw material, mobility, climate and fauna, transport, tool use and reuse (Trinkhaus 1991, 189).

Function vs. Style

For many reasons function, involving the intensity of use and core reduction paradigm, appears to be the most supportable position for many reasons. There is an unsupported premise of the style viewpoint. There are geographically diverse and temporally distant settings in the occurrence of supposedly related styles. The interlayering of the assemblages in certain localities points to a timeline. In any cultural setting there is a need for a variety of toolkits for different tasks and different survival strategies. And there are differences in the availability of certain raw material in different sites.

1. Evidence for ethnic-tradition has not been demonstrated beyond the differences in assemblages themselves. There is, however, a correlation between assemblage variability and other evidence associable with distinct cultural patterns or groups, which has not been done. Instead, fundamental premises are put forth that tool types (a) are due to the intent of the creator, and not due to external circumstances, and (b) therefore variations in assemblages reflect cultural differences. These premises ought to be based on some kind of evidence besides tool assemblages. If distinct cultures/ethnic-traditions existed, other evidence would also be evident, and should have surfaced by now. There are alternative explanations of tool assemblage variability that are supportable.

2. The Quina Mousterian in France is similar to the Yabrudian in the Levant, while the Ferrassie of France is similar to the Zagros of southwest Asia. These similarities are probably not due to culture, ethnicity or historical relationships, simply because of the great geographical separation, as well as enormous time differences involved (as much as 50,000 years). The alternative explanation, that typological parallels are due to production of similar shaped facies, is far likelier. This view is deemed possible because other evidence of differences in technologies are also present. Typological similarities are resultant of the technology of blank production and the intensity of use. One finds that long and narrow blanks result in more double and convergent forms in retouched tools, while wider blanks result in more transverse forms (Dibble 1991).

The similarities are easily explained by technology. The function viewpoint does not mean the model of cultural/historical relationships is needed to explain remote occurrences of similar assemblages. The technology model then also explains differences in assemblages in the same site or region.

3. At many sites 'styles' are interlayered, with repeated occurrences of the same assemblages. The style viewpoint requires a model where the same cultures reappeared repeatedly in the same site. Additional data from the Mousterian sites do not support association of the tool assemblages with the other evidence present.A comparison of the frequency of the remains of the four prevalent ungulates with climate, percentage of arboreal pollen and lithic industry provided no regular observable relationships. The faunal and lithic remains appear to be largely independent of one another and do not support the view of association to distinct cultures (Noll 10). If assemblages are related to distinct cultures, then some correlation with behavioral evidence, such as faunal preferences, would be more likely. Because assemblages happen over and over at different levels, this does not mean a cultural sequence. Various hypothetical cultures would have appeared at relatively the same time, coexisted in the region, and then changed or disappeared at about the same time, rather than evolving one from another.

4. Middle Paleolithic and even earlier lithic artifacts are found throughout a huge range of climates, from tropical to sub-arctic. Mousterian facies have not been consistently shown to correspond to these environmental variations, faunal assemblages or different activities and it has been found that lithics associated with scavenging are more utilized and have more oversized pieces. Remains with hunted fauna are less utilized and likelier to exhibit parallel core reduction. Obviously, different toolkits are needed for different survival strategies, tasks, land use strategies, mobility and density of population or resources requirements. Not all tasks may be recorded. Wood and other soft organic materials decompose while stone and bone remain. Evidence is scant, but different tasks evidence different tools.

5. Tool making may not be possible in all areas, as different areas have different amounts and qualities of raw materials. This results in greater intensity of use in areas with fewer raw materials. Reduction of artifacts is a means of extending the resource and resharpening tools over and over results in a greater variety of tool types.. Re-sharpening flakes are uncommon and are often not represented at all, even in large assemblages. Since cores are virtually absent, they are almost certainly derived from re-sharpening the working edges of choppers in areas where materials are scarce (Jacobs 2).


While there is evidence that Acheulian tool assemblage preceded Mousterian, and the same techniques are used in other areas, this does not mean that the technique was employed by the same group of people, or even that the technique was employed by only one culture. It may have been passed along to other individuals through those who traveled, observed or taught others. That these tools are similar and yet have distinct (Clactonian and Levallosian) techniques involved in their assemblage is undisputable.

Works Cited

Aiello, L.C. And Dean, C. (1990). An Introduction to Human Evolutionary Anatomy. London: Academic Press, 268-74.

Bordaz, J. (1970). Tools of the Old and New Stone Age. Garden City, NY: Natural History Press.

Bordes, F. (1968). Mousterian cultures in France. Science, 134 (September 22): 802-10.

Dibble, Harold L., (1984). Interpreting typological Variation of Middle Paleolithic Scrapers: Function, Style or Sequence of Reduction? Journal of Field Archaeology, 11:431-436.

Dom-nguez-Rodrigo M., Serrallonga J., Juan-Tresserras J., Alcala L., Luque L. (2001). Woodworking activities by early humans: a plant residue analysis on Acheulian stone tools from Peninj (Tanzania). J Hum Evol 40:289-299.

Ember, C.R., Ember, M., Peregrine, P.N. (2007). Anthropology, twelfth Edition. New Jersey: Pearson Education.

Grayson, D.K. And Cole, S.C., (1998). Stone tool assemblage richness during the middle and early upper palaolithic in France. Journal of Archeological Science:25. Article No. as970273.

Jacobs, J., (2000). Reflections on the style-function debate. Paleonanthropology in the 1990's Essays by James Q. Jacobs. Retrieved March 28, 2007 at

Leakey, M, (19979). Olduvai Gorge: My Search for Early Man. London: Collins.

Noll, M. (2000). Components of Acheulian lithic assemblage variability at Olorgesailie, Kenya. Ph.D. dissertation. Urbana: University of Illinois.

Overview of human evolution. (2002) Cyberspace Informational Guide: ASM104 Introduction to Biological Anthropology Mesa Communitiy College Retrieved March 28, 2007 at

Plummer, T. (2004). Flaked stones and old bones: biological and cultural evolution at the dawn of technology, Yearbook of Physical Anthropology 47. New York: Queens College, CUNY and NY Consortium in Evolutionary Primatology.

Stone tool industry. (2007). In Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved March 27, 2007, from Britannica Concise…

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