Insights into early lithic technologies from ethnography.
Oldowan lithic assemblages are often portrayed as a product of the need to obtain sharp flakes for cutting into animal carcases. However, ethnographic and experimental research indicates that the optimal way to produce flakes for such butchering purposes is via bipolar reduction of small cryptocrystalline pebbles rather than from larger crystalline cores resembling choppers. Ethnographic observations of stone tool-using hunter-gatherers in environments comparable with early hominins indicate that most stone tools (particularly chopper forms and flake tools) were used for making simple shaft tools including spears, digging sticks and throwing sticks. These tools bear strong resemblances to Oldowan stone tools. Bipolar reduction for butchering probably preceded chopper-like core reduction and provides a key link between primate nut-cracking technologies and the emergence of more sophisticated lithic technologies leading to the Oldowan.