Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences

, Volume 10, Issue 3, pp 587–598 | Cite as

Identifying handedness at knapping; an analysis of the scatter pattern of lithic remains

  • Amèlia BargallóEmail author
  • Marina Mosquera
  • Carlos Lorenzo
Original Paper


Determining hand laterality during human evolution is important in order to identify brain hemispheric lateralization for motor tasks and, indirectly, to gain information on the complex cognitive functions of the human brain. In this paper, we present a new method for inferring handedness from lithic evidence. The study is based on an analysis of the scatter patterns of lithic remains from stone-knapping episodes. An experimental programme was carried out by 14 knappers (eight right-handed and six left-handed), ranging from individuals that had never even struck two pebbles together to individuals who were quite familiar with prehistoric tools and had some degree of practice. The results of the experiment show that the material scatter patterns of right- and left-handed knappers at group level are different, but they do overlap at certain intervals. At the individual level, the probability of falsely ascribing left- and right-handedness has also been estimated. In addition, we have adapted this method to be applied to the archaeological record. In this case, only well-preserved knapping events with no post-depositional alterations can be used to assign left- or right-handed knappers, with the former being more reliably detected than the latter.


Experimental archaeology Stone knapping Handedness Scatter patterns Density maps 



This research was funded by the Spanish MICINN (projects HAR2012-32548/HIST, CGL2012-38434-C03-01/03 and CGL2015-65387-C3-1-P (MINECO/FEDER)), the Generalitat de Catalunya (AGAUR 2014 SGR-899) and Universitat Rovira i Virgili (2014PFR-URV-B2-17 and 2015PFR-URV-B2-17). The authors are grateful to everyone who took part in the experiments. The authors would also like to thank N. Geribàs for helping in the experiments and J.I. Morales for his comments on the previous versions of the draft.

Supplementary material

12520_2016_378_Fig9_ESM.jpg (243 kb)
Fig. S1

Some of the flakes obtained by novices knappers. a Right handed and b left handed. (JPEG 242 kb)

12520_2016_378_Fig10_ESM.jpg (233 kb)

(JPEG 232 kb)

12520_2016_378_Fig11_ESM.jpg (299 kb)
Fig. S2

Individual density maps of each knapper events after data were standardized. Left-handed knappers in the top, and right-handed knappers at the bottom. The position of the knapper corresponds to 0 at the horizontal axis. The knapper was looking towards South, and the lithic remains distribution is in front of him. The line on each scatter informs us about the direction of the maximum spatial distribution. (JPEG 299 kb)

12520_2016_378_Fig12_ESM.jpg (320 kb)
Table S2

Distribution of lithic remains using 10° intervals, distinguishing individual knapping events and knapper’s handedness. (JPEG 319 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Amèlia Bargalló
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Marina Mosquera
    • 1
    • 2
  • Carlos Lorenzo
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.IPHES, Institut Català de Paleoecologia Humana i Evolució SocialTarragonaSpain
  2. 2.Area de Prehistòria, Universitat Rovira i Virgili (URV)TarragonaSpain

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