Fall 2017

Document Type



Mobile, AL



First Advisor

Phil Carr


The manufacturing of Oldowan stone tools marks a significant first step in human technological adaptation as part of the larger story of human evolution. Stone tools allow manipulation of the environment in a manner not capable by human ancestors’ “tooth and claw,” or biology, and just as importantly stone tool manufacture and use changes selective pressures related to cognition and learning. These cognitive/technological abilities drove the members of the genus Homo to become one of the most flexibly adaptive creatures on the planet. Examination of the evolution of human cognition and pedagogy allows for a more complete understanding of the emergence of modern humans and has potential to provide better insight to our understanding of hominin evolution. Through a series of collaborative experiments, this research will examine the ways the first hominins learned, shared, and communicated their knowledge of the manufacture of Oldowan tools. These experiments employ contemporary experienced stone knappers sharing the techniques involved in Oldowan production with novice knappers within set pedagogical parameters. When a technical skill of any sort, such as creating an Oldowan tool, is taught through direct and guided pedagogy from an expert with uninhibited language, it is hypothesized that the task would be completed successfully and the tool would be similar to Oldowan tools of the archaeological record. This research explores how pedagogy and language are intertwined, how communication affects tool making, and creates a dialogue on the ways cultural transmission has evolved in the human lineage.