Institute of Archaeology

First for Archaeology in UK 2015

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Tomos Proffitt

A technological analysis of the Oldowan and Developed Oldowan assemblages from Olduvai Gorge, Tanzania

This research will evaluate the variation of technological skill employed by early hominins in the production of the earliest human technology, the Oldowan (2.6-1.4mya), considering geographic, paleo-environmental and chronological variation within Olduvai Gorge, Tanzania, providing a new, detailed understanding of the development of early human technological cognition. 

In describing the typological classification of Oldowan assemblages in Beds I and II of Olduvai Gorge, Leakey (1971) differentiated classic Oldowan, (Bed I), with what she believed to be a change in technological culture within Bed II, Developed Oldowan A (DOA). Further cultural differentiations within Bed II were designated Developed Oldowan B (DOB) and Acheulean.

Recent studies have sought to clarify the technological proficiency of hominin species associated with Oldowan assemblages (de la Torre et al, 2003, de la Torre, 2004, Delagnes and Roche, 2005, Stout et al, 2010). Some suggest that the Oldowan industry underwent a period of stasis in technological skill, up until the emergence of the Acheulean industry, (Stout et al 2010). The emergence of which was considered sudden, mainly uninfluenced by previous Oldowan technology. (Semaw et al, 2009): this technological development may be explained by a sudden cultural, cognitive or ecological change. Conversely recent analysis suggests a high level of technological variation (de la Torre et al, 2003, de la Torre, 2004, Delagnes and Roche, 2005), implying a gradual technological evolution towards the Acheulean from the Oldowan.

Although recent studies have attempted to justify the inclusion of DOA into the Oldowan, and recommend DOB be subsumed by the Acheulean (de la Torre and Mora, 2005, Semaw et al, 2009), recent excavations of Bed II have suggested that the DOA and Classic Oldowan may show technological differences, suggesting different technological responses.

This study will directly assess whether the Oldowan represents a stasis of technological expertise, or whether there is diachronic variation, by undertaking a first-hand technological analysis, assessment and comparison of existing lithic assemblages of the DOA and Classic Oldowan

Funding organisation

  • UCL IMPACT Award


 Educational background

  • BSc. Archaeology.UCL
  • MSc, Palaeoanthropology and Palaeolithic Archaeology, UCL
  • An experimentally knapped and refitted core of Olduvai Chert

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