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Miniaturization and Abstraction in the Later Stone Age

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Peer-reviewed

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Article

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Abstract

jats:titleAbstract</jats:title>jats:pThis article offers some hypotheses to explain Later Stone Age lithic miniaturization: the systematic creation of small stone flakes on the finest-grained materials. Fundamentally, this phenomenon appears to represent the prioritization of stone tool sharpness over longevity, and a disposable mode of using stone tools. Ethnographic evidence from Australasia, the Andaman Islands, and Africa is used to suggest some specific functions for miniaturized lithics, as well as their relationship to other aspects of Later Stone Age material culture, including ochre crayons, shell beads, and notched bones. Miniaturized lithic functions are hypothesized to have a common basis in the cognitive capacity for abstraction: having ideas about ideas. The technological and social affordances of abstraction may have given later jats:italicHomo sapiens</jats:italic> significant adaptive advantages over other members of our genus.</jats:p>

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Acknowledgements: I am grateful to Ross Pain for the invitation to present these ideas at the Material Evidence and Cognitive Evolution workshop. I thank both the philosophical and the archaeological reviewer for their contrasting inputs on a draft of this paper. Thanks also to Alison Brooks for suggesting miniaturization might be associated with pigment and beads.

Keywords

50 Philosophy and Religious Studies, 5002 History and Philosophy Of Specific Fields, Biotechnology

Journal Title

Biological Theory

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Journal ISSN

1555-5542
1555-5550

Volume Title

18

Publisher

Springer Science and Business Media LLC