Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Tech-savvy Neanderthals couldn't blame their tools
Some researchers have argued that this technological leap gave modern humans a decided advantage over Neanderthals, who went extinct in Europe around 28,000 years ago. They claimed that humans produced and wielded blade tools more efficiently than disc flakes.

"I put this to the test, I created thousands of tools," Eren says. He and his colleagues focused on the process of creating the tools, not just the final product.

. . .

Disc flakes, Eren's team discovered, waste less rock, suffer fewer breaks and have more cutting edge for their mass compared with straight blades.

There's a lot that goes into stone tool technology so it's difficult to make out what the significance is. Various researchers (e.g., Parry and Kelly 1987, McDonald 1991) have argued that a conversion to sedentism is often accompanied by a shift to more simple expedient tool production; more or less opposite of what one usually thinks of as 'progress'. And it's not like this is a new debate or anything.

Parry, W. J., and R. L. Kelly
1987 Expeient core technology and sedentism. In The Organization of Core Technology, edited by J. K. Johnson, and C. A. Morrow. Westview Press, Boulder and London.

McDonald, M. M. A.
1991 Technological organization and sedentism in the Epipaleolithic of Dakhleh Oasis, Egypt. The African Archaeological Review 9:81-109.