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Lithic Production Strategies in the Oldowan Assemblages from Sterkfontein Member 5 and Swartkrans Member 1, Gauteng Province, South Africa

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Sterkfontein Member 5 East (Oldowan Infill) and Swartkrans Member 1 (Lower Bank) represent the largest concentrations of Oldowan artefacts in southern Africa, and yet they vary significantly in terms of raw material use and typological frequencies. While previous research has described these differences in detail, questions remain as to the cause and implications of this variability. To increase resolution on this matter, this study implements quantitative methods to investigate lithic production strategies at these sites. Results expand upon previous findings concerning differences in raw material use and knapping methods and how these patterns relate to core reduction and flake production. Explanations for these patterns focus on a dichotomy between efficiency and expediency in lithic production, which differ from previous interpretations. As such, variability between these assemblages may relate more to mobility patterns in early hominins within this region and immediate needs for tool use.Le Membre 5 Est (“Oldowan Infill”) de Sterkfontein et le Membre 1 (« Lower Bank ») de Swartkrans ont livré à eux deux la plus importante collection d’artefacts Oldowayens connue d’Afrique du Sud. Pourtant, les ensembles provenant de ces deux gisements présentent des variations considérables, à la fois typologiquement parlant et en termes de matières premières lithiques utilisées. Bien que ces différences aient été décrites dans des travaux antérieurs, certaines questions demeurent quant à l’origine de cette variabilité et ses implications. Afin d’améliorer notre compréhension de ces questions, l’étude présentée ici met en œuvre une approche quantitative permettant d’étudier les stratégies de production lithique sur ces deux sites. Nos résultats développent ceux précédemment obtenus sur les différences dans l’utilisation des matières premières lithiques, les méthodes de taille ainsi que le lien entre ces choix, les stratégies de réduction des nucléus et la production d’éclats. Ces modèles de production lithique s’expliquent en grande partie par une dichotomie entre efficacité d’une part et rapidité d’autre part – un point qui diffère des interprétations précédemment proposées. La variabilité entre ces deux ensembles pourrait ainsi être rapportée à des schémas de mobilité des premiers homininés dans cette région et à des besoins d’utilisation d’outils immédiats.This article is in English.

Affiliations: 1: School of Geography, Archaeology and Environmental Studies, Department of Archaeology, University of the Witwatersrand Private Bag 3, wits 2050, JohannesburgSouth Africa


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