Experimental studies illuminate the cultural transmission of percussive technologies in homo and pan

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Abstract

The complexity of Stone Age tool-making is assumed to have relied upon cultural transmission, but direct evidence is lacking. This paper reviews evidence bearing on this question provided through five related empirical perspectives. Controlled experimental studies offer special power in identifying and dissecting social learning into its diverse component forms, such as imitation and emulation. The first approach focuses on experimental studies that have discriminated social learning processes in nut-cracking by chimpanzees. Second come experiments that have identified and dissected the processes of cultural transmission involved in a variety of other forcebased forms of chimpanzee tool use. A third perspective is provided by field studies that have revealed a range of forms of forceful, targeted tool use by chimpanzees, that set percussion in its broader cognitive context. Fourth are experimental studies of the development of flint knapping to make functional sharp flakes by bonobos, implicating and defining the social learning and innovation involved. Finally, new and substantial experiments compare what different social learning processes, from observational learning to teaching, afford good quality human flake and biface manufacture. Together these complementary approaches begin to delineate the social learning processes necessary to percussive technologies within the Pan–Homo clade.
Original languageEnglish
JournalPhilosophical Transactions of the Royal Society. B, Biological Sciences
Volume370
Issue number1682
Early online date19 Oct 2015
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 19 Nov 2015

Keywords

  • Percussive technology
  • Nut-cracking
  • Stone tools
  • Social learning
  • Cultural transmission
  • Chimpanzee

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