Manual restrictions on Palaeolithic technological behaviours
The causes of technological innovation in the Palaeolithic archaeological record are central to understanding Plio-Pleistocene hominin behaviour and temporal trends in artefact variation. Palaeolithic archaeologists frequently investigate the Oldowan-Acheulean transition and technological developments during the subsequent million years of the Acheulean technocomplex. Here, we approach the question of why innovative stone tool production techniques occur in the Lower Palaeolithic archaeological record from an experimental biomechanical and evolutionary perspective. Nine experienced flintknappers reproduced Oldowan flake tools, ‘early Acheulean’ handaxes, and ‘late Acheulean’ handaxes while pressure data were collected from their non-dominant (core-holding) hands. For each flake removal or platform preparation event performed, the percussor used, the stage of reduction, the core securing technique utilised, and the relative success of flake removals were recorded. Results indicate that more heavily reduced, intensively shaped handaxes with greater volumetric controls do not necessarily require significantly greater manual pressure than Oldowan flake tools or earlier ‘rougher’ handaxe forms. Platform preparation events do, however, require significantly greater pressure relative to either soft or hard hammer flake detachments. No significant relationships were identified between flaking success and pressure variation. Our results suggest that the preparation of flake platforms, a technological behaviour associated with the production of late Acheulean handaxes, could plausibly have been restricted prior to the emergence of more forceful precision-manipulative capabilities than those required for earlier lithic technologies.