Handaxe symmetry in the Lower and Middle Palaeolithic: implications for the Acheulean gaze

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Abstract

Exploring the link between material culture production, hominin cognition, behavioural complexity and the development of language form some of the central tenants of Palaeolithic archaeological discourse. This paper aims to bring these components together by utilising a new theoretical perspective regarding hominin identity construction and the use of material culture in the story of language development — the identity model. The identity model proposes that in order for material culture to be imbued with symbolic social meaning, not only is a theory of mind (or second-order intentionality) essential, but it also must be superseded by a third-order of intentionality at a minimum. This premise will be examined using data pertaining to handaxe manufacture from the British Lower and Middle Palaeolithic in an effort to shed new light upon the cognitive landscape of ancient hominins. It is proposed that although hominins paid attention to form within handaxe manufacture, locked into the so-called Acheulean gaze (Foley & Gamble 2009), on the whole, they may not have realised the full potential of such a gaze to consciously off-load social interactions and culturally meaningful signals onto the material culture with which they interacted.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationSettlement, Society and Cognition in Human Evolution: Landscapes in Mind
EditorsF. Coward, R. Hosfield, M. Pope, F.F. Wenban-Smith
Place of PublicationCambridge
PublisherCambridge University Press
Pages234-257
Number of pages24
ISBN (Print)9781107026889
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2015

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