Early hominin social learning strategies underlying the use and production of bone and stone tools

Matthew V. Caruana, Francesco D’errico, Lucinda Backwell

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)


Introduction: Current trends in research toward the integration of primatological and archaeological models have provided significant insight into the emergence of tool use from a multidisciplinary perspective (e.g., Wynn & McGrew 1989; van Schaik et al., 1999; Backwell & d’Errico, 2001, 2008, 2009; d’Errico et al., 2001; Mercader et al., 2002, 2007; van Schaik & Pradhan, 2003; Marzke, 2006; Lockwood et al., 2007; Sanz & Morgan, 2007; Carvalho et al., 2008, 2009; Gowlett, 2009; Haslam et al., 2009; Hernandez-Aguilar, 2009; Uomini, 2009; Visalberghi et al., 2009; Whiten et al., 2009a; Chapter 11). Recently, this has culminated in the new “primate archaeology” subdiscipline (Haslam et al., 2009), which has effectively modeled the advantages of incorporating comparative primatological research within the study of early hominin technologies. While this approach advances a unique perspective concerning the evolution of tool use and production, the predominantly ethological focus of primate archaeology has not fully benefited from exploring neuro-cognitive mechanisms in non-human primates and modern humans that might pertain to tool use in the deep past. Cognition remains a critical element in archaeological and paleoanthropological theories regarding the nature of early hominin technologies (e.g., Toth, 1985; Semaw, 2000; Delagnes & Roche, 2005; Stout et al., 2008; Whiten et al., 2009a). Thus, examining the cognitive capacities underlying tool use within the Order Primates is a critical pursuit toward understanding the social and cultural contexts of tool-mediated behavior, and the evolution of technology (van Schaik et al., 1999; van Schaik & Pradhan, 2003; see also Chapters 2, 3 and 10). This chapter presents and explores various primatological perspectives concerning tool use, and cognitive approaches regarding the emergence of technology within the hominin lineage. The infusion of cognitive perspectives within the primate archaeology framework is imperative for defining the biological, sociocultural and ecological contexts of tool use and production, thus enhancing its interpretive potential.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationTool Use in Animals Cognition and Ecology
PublisherCambridge University Press
Number of pages44
ISBN (Electronic)9780511894800
ISBN (Print)9781107011199
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2010
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences


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