Knapping in the Dark: Stone Tools and a Theory of Mind

Research output: Chapter in Book/Conference proceeding with ISSN or ISBNChapter


Understanding the cognitive abilities of our hominin ancestors remains challenging. Recent years have seen many advances, especially new fossil discoveries and the Paleogenetic data that has illuminated the mosaic nature of past hominin interactions across multiple human species. However, the primary route to accessing the behavioral and cognitive worlds of our hominin ancestors still remains firmly rooted in the archaeological record, particularly stone tools, the direct products of hominin actions grounded in the physical, social, and cognitive worlds occupied by the knappers. A theory of mind has long been considered a key component of the human condition, linked to both language and the development of abstract thought. There must therefore be a point (or perhaps multiple points) in our evolutionary history when hominins gained a theory of mind. This ability should, in turn, be reflected in the archaeological record. To date, however, only limited attempts have been made to correlate the two. This paper thus explores the relationship between the various stone tool traditions and theory of mind.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationSqueezing Minds from Stones
Subtitle of host publicationCognitive Archaeology and the Evolution of the Human Mind
EditorsK.A. Overman, F.L. Coolidge
Place of PublicationNew York
PublisherOxford University Press
ISBN (Print)9780190854614
Publication statusPublished - 30 May 2019

Bibliographical note

This material was originally published in Squeezing Minds From Stones:
Cognitive Archaeology and the Evolution of the Human Mind by edited by Karenleigh A. Overmann and Frederick L. Coolidge, and has been reproduced by permission of Oxford University Press For permission to reuse this material, please visit


  • Theory of mind
  • lithic technologies
  • cognitive evolution
  • Social Brain Hypothesis
  • orders of intentionality
  • Identity Model


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