Constraining the Likely Technological Niches of Late Middle Pleistocene Hominins with Homo naledi as Case Study

Gerrit L. Dusseldorp, Marlize Lombard

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)


We develop a framework to differentiate the technological niches of co-existing hominin species by reviewing some theoretical biases influential in thinking about techno-behaviours of extinct hominins, such as a teleological bias in discussing technological evolution. We suggest that some stone-tool classification systems underestimate technological variability, while overestimating the complexity of the behaviours most commonly represented. To model the likely technological niches of extinct populations, we combine ecological principles (i.e. competitive exclusion) with physical anthropology and the archaeological record. We test the framework by applying it to the co-existence of Homo naledi and Homo sapiens during the late Middle Pleistocene in southern Africa. Based on our analysis, we suggest that tool use was probably not an essential part of H. naledi’s niche, but that technology occasionally provided caloric benefits. In contrast, tool use was a structural part of the H. sapiens way of life. We provide reasoning for our interpretation that the latter population is associated with more sophisticated reduction strategies and the development of prepared core technology. The method also has applicability to cases such as the co-existence of different toolmakers during the Earlier Stone Age (ESA) in East Africa and the co-existence of Neanderthals and H. sapiens in Eurasia.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)11-52
Number of pages42
JournalJournal of Archaeological Method and Theory
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2021


  • Caloric benefits
  • Extinct hominins
  • Obligatory tool use
  • Sympatric hominins
  • Techno-behaviours
  • Technological niches
  • Teleological bias

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Archeology (arts and humanities)
  • Archeology


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