Home / Colloquium: Can we differentiate knapping techniques based on flake morphology? A geometric morphometrics approach


Title: Can we differentiate knapping techniques based on flake morphology? A geometric morphometrics approach

Speaker: Alba Montes, ERC STONECULT doctoral candidate

Venue and time: Großer Seminarraum 602 (Rümelinstraße 23), Nov. 19, 12:30 s.t.

Some non-human primates produce small flakes as a consequence of percussive activities carried out during foraging. Famously, capuchin monkeys (Sapajus libidinosus) in Serra de Capivara National Park produce flakes and debris unintentionally via the passive hammer knapping technique (Proffitt et al. 2016). This technique involves striking a hammer on a passive anvil, which produces the detachment of sharp-edged flakes from the hand-held hammer. Previous studies have compared these unintentionally produced flakes with flakes found in hominin archaeological sites, finding no apparent morphological differences between the two sources. To determine if different techniques produce flakes that can be morphologically differentiated, we conducted a geometric morphometric comparison of flakes experimentally produced using passive hammer technique with flakes produced using the most common hominin knapping technique (hard hammer percussion). Furthermore, we also analyzed a flake produced by a non-human primate in order to evaluate if the morphology of the flake suffices to correctly 1) determine the knapping technique by which the flake was made and 2) if the morphology differs from human-made flakes. A shape PCA revealed no obvious differences between flakes produced with each knapping technique. However, a form PCA revealed differences in size between the products of the two techniques and correctly classified the non-human flake within the flakes produced with the same knapping technique. We discuss the implications of these results both for the interpretations of hominin technological assemblages and non-human primate archaeological sites. In addition, we evaluate the potential limitations of the new protocol that we implemented for the analysis of flakes’ shape.