Questioning the link between stone tool standardization and behavioral modernity

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10 Scopus citations


For more than 20 years, it has been claimed that standardization is a -feature of Upper Paleolithic retouched stone tools, as compared to Middle Paleolithic ones, and reflects the stricter application of mental templates to stone tool-making (e.g., Mellars, Curr Anthropol 30:349-385, 1989a). More recently, this claim has been modified to include stone tool standardization as a feature of modern human behavior (e.g., Klein, J World Prehistory 9:167-198, 1995). It has been argued elsewhere (Chase 1991, Monnier, Cambridge Archaeological Journal 17:341-350, 2007) that standardization and apparent imposition of form in retouched tools reflect factors other than adherence to mental templates. This study tests the notion that standardization is a feature of behavioral modernity by comparing artifact standardization among Middle Paleolithic, Upper Paleolithic, and Neolithic assemblages from western Switzerland. It uses a 2D geometric morphometric approach to quantify variance in shape within selected tool types. The results show that the most highly standardized types occur in the Upper Paleolithic assemblage. Neolithic types are significantly less standardized than Upper Paleolithic types, and are not more standardized than Middle Paleolithic ones. This suggests that degree of standardization does not correlate strongly with behavioral modernity; rather, the occurrence of highly standardized tools in many Upper Paleolithic assemblages is a feature unique to the Upper Paleolithic, and the reasons for it most likely do not directly reflect mental templates or any other cognitive factors.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationNew Perspectives on Old Stones
Subtitle of host publicationAnalytical Approaches to Palaeolithic Technologies
EditorsS Lycett, P Chauhan
Place of PublicationNew York, NY
Number of pages21
ISBN (Print)9781441968609
StatePublished - 2010

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