Why is it important to consider formation processes when interpreting the association between hominin fossils, fossils from other animals, and stone tools?
Fossils provide information that helps archeologists understand the hominins at a time of interest. Therefore, the formation process becomes important since it helps to infer the earth’s climate at that time in history and the cultural activities done by the hominins. Since the fossil must have struggled to survive the cause of death at that time of archeological interest, the fossil formation process informs how a hominin nearly escaped death and how the cause of death might have caused the presence of other animals and tools found near the hominin fossil. Notably, the interpretation of fossil data might be biased since the different archeological methods have varied strengths in analyzing different materials. For instance, some methods lack the power to analyze the soft body tissues fossils at the excavation site.
Why should we be cautious about the interpretation of these objects in deposits that date to millions of years ago?
Caution is critical since it helps avoid erroneous conclusions from incomplete analysis or biased fossil records. For instance, hard and soft body tissues fossilize differently. The formation process also affects the nature of fossils at the time of excavation. Besides, the geographical location of the fossil, which is the habitat of the fossil, determines its characteristics. All these factors are critical for fossil records, and depending on the archeological methods used in excavation and analysis of the fossil, the records might differ from one archeologist to another. We should be cautious to collect and analyze the fossil data with a high degree of accuracy, thus reducing bias and difference in fossil records regardless of the method used.
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In addition to hominin hunting and hominin scavenging, what are two other processes that could result in these objects (hominin fossils, fossils of other animals, and stone tools) being found with one another in the archaeological record?
- Flooding: Floods might have swept both the hominin and other objects, downed the hominin and animals and settled their carcasses at one place with other stone tools.
- Predation: The death of hominins by predation is an ideal cause because, at the point of their death, the hominin might have attempted to protect itself using stone tools. According to L’Abbé et al., the evidence of injuries such as jaw fractures on MH1 and MH2 skeletons are string evidence of hominin predation (5). Other animals in the scene might have become casualties in the predation fight.
Briefly describe Acheulean lithic technology and contrast it with Oldowan lithic technology. What new features of human cognition might have enabled these changes?
The Oldowan lithic technology made tools from stone, bone, wood, and some organic materials. The majority of tools were three inches stone cutting tools made through hammer percussion. In contrast, Acheulean lithic technology used long cutting edges of up to 12 inches from the point of flint. The improvement in technology came out of an increase in brain size of the hominin, which came with better cognition demands and task partitioning for the survival techniques (De la Torre 9). Hence the change to Acheulean lithic technology was influenced by increased brain size and its computation (cognitive) power.
What is surprising about the spatial and temporal distribution of Acheulean technology?
Acheulean technology’s spatial and temporal distribution helps archeologists infer hominins’ dispersal across the old world. However, it is interesting that despite early traces of Acheulean technology in Africa, the hominins did not disperse it from there (Lepre et al. 82). Hence, the technology seems to have sprouted from more than one geographical location.
What factors may have led to the spatial distribution of Acheulean technology?
Multiple population groups of hominins in different parts of the old world crafted their stone tools to suit their survival behaviors. Also, stone types differed from one place to another, hence influencing the Acheulean technology between locations. Lastly, the use of the tools also differed from one place to another. Some hominins needed heavy tools, and others required light tools culminating in the technology’s overall spatial distribution.
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De la Torre, Ignacio. “The Origins Of The Acheulean: Past And Present Perspectives On A Major Transition In Human Evolution”. Philosophical Transactions Of The Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, vol 371, no. 1698, 2016, p. 20150245. The Royal Society, https://doi.org/10.1098/rstb.2015.0245. Accessed 28 Oct 2021.
L’Abbé, Ericka N. et al. “Evidence Of Fatal Skeletal Injuries On Malapa Hominins 1 And 2”. Scientific Reports, vol 5, no. 1, 2015. Springer Science And Business Media LLC, https://doi.org/10.1038/srep15120. Accessed 28 Oct 2021.
Lepre, Christopher J. et al. “An Earlier Origin For The Acheulian”. Nature, vol 477, no. 7362, 2011, pp. 82-85. Springer Science And Business Media LLC, https://doi.org/10.1038/nature10372. Accessed 28 Oct 2021.