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Raw material optimization and stone tool engineering in the Early Stone Age of Olduvai Gorge (Tanzania)

Key, A; Proffitt, T; De la Torre, I; (2020) Raw material optimization and stone tool engineering in the Early Stone Age of Olduvai Gorge (Tanzania). Journal of the Royal Society Interface , 17 (162) , Article 20190377. 10.1098/rsif.2019.0377. Green open access

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Abstract

For more than 1.8 million years hominins at Olduvai Gorge were faced with a choice: whether to use lavas, quartzite or chert to produce stone tools. All are available locally and all are suitable for stone tool production. Using controlled cutting tests and fracture mechanics theory we examine raw material selection decisions throughout Olduvai's Early Stone Age. We quantify the force, work and material deformation required by each stone type when cutting, before using these data to compare edge sharpness and durability. Significant differences are identified, confirming performance to depend on raw material choice. When combined with artefact data, we demonstrate that Early Stone Age hominins optimized raw material choices based on functional performance characteristics. Doing so flexibly: choosing raw materials dependent on their sharpness and durability, alongside a tool's loading potential and anticipated use-life. In this way, we demonstrate that early lithic artefacts at Olduvai Gorge were engineered to be functionally optimized cutting tools.

Type: Article
Title: Raw material optimization and stone tool engineering in the Early Stone Age of Olduvai Gorge (Tanzania)
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1098/rsif.2019.0377
Publisher version: https://doi.org/10.1098/rsif.2019.0377
Language: English
Additional information: This version is the author accepted manuscript. For information on re-use, please refer to the publisher’s terms and conditions.
Keywords: fracture mechanics, controlled experiment, cutting, sharpness, blunting, abrasion
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of S&HS
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of S&HS > Institute of Archaeology
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of S&HS > Institute of Archaeology > Institute of Archaeology Gordon Square
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10091196
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