When do similarities in flake attributes reflect common
When do similarities in flake attributes reflect common cultural ancestry?
Jonathan Paige, Charles Perreault
Question two: Are attributes with smaller morphospaces more prone to convergence?
Convergence is a potential problem in tracing cultural interactions in the Pleistocene
Archaeologists use similarities in flake attributes to infer
cultural interaction, and migration (Tostevin 2012).
However, flake similarities could be due to causes other
than cultural interaction, or common cultural ancestry.
How many possible forms a flake may take, or its
morphospace (McGhee 2006), is constrained by the
physics of fracture mechanics (Magnani et al. 2014,
Restricted morphospaces should be more prone to
convergence: similar forms being made by chance by
two groups without a cultural connection.
Gathered flake data from two groups:
Ingroups: Hohokam assemblages
dating between 1100-1300 A.D.
recovered from Tonto Basin, Central
Arizona. (N =620 flakes).
Outgroups: 13 experimental
assemblages, and 5 old world
Pleistocene assemblages (N=3,485
Compared (KS-test) external platform
angle (E), platform thickness (P) and
length/width ratio (L) distributions
between assemblages (315 comparisons).
Similarities between Hohokam and
outgroups counted as cases of
Question one: Do flake attributes differ in morphospace size?
Collected summary data on flakes
(N=42,502) from 15 experimental and 51
Similarities within Hohokam, and
differences between Hohokam and
outgroup counted as successes.
Assemblages span MP-UP Eurasia,
Lomekwian-MSA Africa, late Holocene
Collected mean external platform angle
(E), platform depth (P), and length:width
Ext. Plat. Angl.
External Pla orm
Attributes vary in size of morphospace (CV)
CV = 8%
CV = 43%
CV = 39%
External platform angle (E) has the
smallest CV, the most restricted
morphospace, and should be most prone to
Bader, G., Will, M., Conrad, N. (2015). "The lithic technology of Holley Shelter, KwaZulu-Natal, and its place
within the MSA of southern Africa." The South African Archaeological Bulletin, 149-165.
Cameron, J. (1985) Gran Quivira Limestone Lithic Database (tDAR id: 399215)
Harmand, S., Lewis, J. E., Feibel, et al. (2015). 3.3-million-year-old stone tools from Lomekwi 3, West
Turkana, Kenya. Nature, 521(7552), 310-315.
Hunstiger, M. (2016). Three Dimensional Aggregate Flake Scar Analysis and Hominin Behavior at Tabun
Cave, Israel. Dissertation.
Attributes that have limited morphospaces should be more prone to convergence than
Outlining the morphospace for lithic technology is one way of exploring which attributes
may be more or less useful for cultural reconstructions.
Future studies will assess the scales at which different attributes retain cultural
Klassen, S., Harkness, R. (2015) EMAP Obsidian Flake Database (tDAR id:
Magnani, M,. Rezek, Z., Lin, S., et al. (2014). Flake variation in relation to
the application of force. Journal of Archaeological Science.
McGhee, G. (2008). The Geometry of Evolution: Adaptive Landscapes and
Theoretical Morphospaces. Cambridge University Press.
Moore, M. W., & Perston, Y. (2016). Experimental Insights into the
Cognitive Significance of Early Stone Tools. PloS one, 11(7), e0158803.
Moore, M. (2011). The design space of stone flaking: implications for cognitive evolution. World
Archaeology. (43)4, 702-715
Munday, F. (1977). Nahal Aqev (D35): a stratified, open-air Mousterian occupation in the Avdat/
Aqev area." Prehistory and paleoenvironments in the central Negev, Israel. Vol. 2.
de la Pea, P. (2015). Refining Our Understanding of Howiesons Poort Lithic Technology: The
Evidence from Grey Rocky Layer in Sibudu Cave (KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa). PloS one, 10(12),
N=90 trials per Plat. Depth
Calculated coefficient of variation (CV) in
each attribute as a proxy for relative size of
Success in both identifying similarities
among Hohokam, and differences between
Hohokam and outgroup ranges between
~50% and ~70%.
Ext. Plat. Angl.
Convergence more likely for external
platform angle than other attributes
per a ribute)
= P value < .05
= P value < .001
Thanks to the researchers who
published data used in this study, Derek
Miltimore for the flake photo, Dr. Arleyn
Simon, The Center for Archaeology and
Society, and The Roosevelt Platform
Mound Study for their help and access
to the Tonto Basin assemblage.
Presnyakova, D., Archer, W., Braun, D. R., Flear, W. (2015). Documenting differences
between early stone age flake production systems: An experimental model and
archaeological verification. Plos one
Tostevin, G. B. (2012). Seeing lithics. A Middle Range Theory for Testing for Cultural
Transmission in the Pleistocene. American School of Prehistoric Research Monograph
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