- Briefly explain why material culture is important to biological psychologists as well as anthropologists
- Briefly list the types of tool industries, the date ranges associated with each, and the species of hominin or human associated with each if known
The earliest evidence of material culture is in the form of stone tools found on sites dated to 2.4 millions years ago (mya). This does not mean that early hominins did not use tools. New finds from Ethiopia indicate that A. afarensis used stone tools to extract marrow from bones 3.4 million years ago. What is not known is whether A. afarensis was making tools or simply using found rocks as tools. From material culture, biological psychologists and anthropologists can make inferences about cognitive capacities of hominins and early humans.
Oldowan Tool Industry
Acheulean Tool Industry
One thing we see with tool technologies is that as time passes the tools become more and more sophisticated. About 1.9 million years ago, Homo erectus invented a new sophisticated technology for making stone tools, which started with the hard percussion technique, but then employed a soft hammer technique to get more refined and sharper edges. This new tool industry is called the Acheulean.
The Acheulean tool industry, first found at St. Acheul, France, is characterized by bifacial tools. This means that the stone is worked on both sides. This tool industry is a marked step in the cognitive abilities of hominins because the tool has to be conceptualized prior to manufacturing. Dozens of flakes have to be removed precisely in order to maintain the symmetry of the tool and keep the edges straight. The signature tool of the Acheulean tool industry is the tear-drop shaped handaxe. Often referred to as the Swiss Army knife of the Pleistocene, the handaxe was an all-purpose tool used for a multitude of activities including digging, sawing, and cutting.
Mousterian Tool Industry
Upper Paleolithic Tool Industries
Why Material Culture is Important to Biological Psychology
The development of stone tools undergoes several stages and early stages preceded emergence of Homo sapiens. The discovery of stone tools gives clues about the cognitive abilities of hominins including Neanderthal and early humans. Creation of sophisticated stone tools required conceptualization of the tool before its manufacture and suggests emerging abilities to imagine and to plan (see Chapter 14 on Intelligence, Coginition, and Language).