Skill and Core Uniformity: An Experiment with Oldowan-like Flaking Systems

Evan Patrick Wilson, Dietrich Stout, Cheng Liu, Megan Beney Kilgore, Justin Pargeter

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    The Oldowan is the archaeological record’s oldest consistent evidence of hominin technical behavior. First appearing ∼2.6 Ma in East Africa, the Oldowan is characterized by simple core and flake technology using direct hard hammer percussion. Archaeologists debate whether Oldowan assemblages are uniform and what role hominin cultural abilities played in generating these assemblages. To improve existing methods for studying Oldowan technical uniformity, we conducted experiments involving 23 novices and one expert knapper. Subjects made simple stone tools under two different instructional conditions (observation-only and direct active instruction) over two hours. We used the resulting cores to track flaking efficiency, reduction intensity, and knapping errors. We find significant differences in the expert and novice core uniformity. Direct active teaching increased core flaking efficiency and reduced knapping errors. Comparisons between our experimental results and an Oldowan sample from Gona, Ethiopia, show core variability patterns that match our expert and actively taught novices.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)333-346
    Number of pages14
    JournalLithic Technology
    Issue number4
    StatePublished - 2023


    • Oldowan
    • social learning
    • stone tool-making
    • uniformity

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Archaeology
    • Anthropology
    • Archaeology


    Dive into the research topics of 'Skill and Core Uniformity: An Experiment with Oldowan-like Flaking Systems'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

    Cite this