African Archaeological Review

, Volume 12, Issue 1, pp 3–42 | Cite as

Kariandusi: Acheulean morphology and the question of allometry

  • J. A. J. Gowlett
  • R. H. Crompton


Allometry, or size-related variation, is shown to be an important factor in the bifaces of two separate assemblages from the Acheulean site of Kariandusi in Kenya. Such variation has functional and possibly stylistic implications. The paper gives a review of the archaeology of Kariandusi, and then investigates the question of size and shape variation in bifaces. The Upper Sites at Kariandusi, first investigated by L. S. B. Leakey, have yielded many obsidian bifaces which can be dated to approximately 0.7–1.0 myr ago. Material from the Lower Site, including many lava bifaces, is judged to be stratigraphically younger but probably in the same time range. We show by making comparisons with the neighbouring Acheulean sites of Kilombe and the Kapthurin Formation that allometry is present in biface assemblages at least 0.5 myr different in date; that similar principles of allometry operate in all the assemblages; and that where there are differences of allometric pattern, within-site variation is sometimes greater than variation between distant sites. We conclude that the size of a biface at least partly determines the shape in which it was made, and that sites in the time range ofHomo erectus and earlyHomo sapiens show surprisingly similar allometric patterns.


Time Range Cultural Study Distant Site Shape Variation Similar Principle 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Il est démontré que l'allométrie ou variation dimensionnelle, est un facteur important des bifaces de deux collections séparées du site acheuléen de Kariandusi au Kénya. Une telle variation a des implications fonctionnelles et peut-être aussi stylistiques. Cet article examine l'archéologie de Kariandusi, puis étudie la question des variations de dimensions et de formes dans les bifaces. Les sites plus élevés de Kariandusi, que L.S.B. Leakey a été le premier à fouiller, ont donné de nombreux bifaces d'obsidienne que l'on peut dater d'environ 0,7–1,0 million d'années. Le matériel obtenu dans le site inférieur, y compris de nombreux bifaces en lave, est jugé plus récent stratigraphiquement, mais probablement de la même période. En faisant des comparaisons avec les sites acheuléens voisins de Kilombe et de la Formation Kapthurine, nous démontrons que l'allométrie est présente dans des collections de bifaces dont les dates diffèrent d'au moins 0,5 million d'années; que des principes d'allométrie similaires s'appliquent à toutes les collections; et que lorsqu'il y a des différences de schéma allométrique, la variation au sein d'un même site est souvent plus importante que la variation entre des sites distants. Nous concluons que la dimension d'un biface détermine au moins partiellement sa forme, et que les sites de la période de l'Homo erectus et du début de la période de l'Homo sapiens présentent des schémas allométriques étonamment semblables.


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© Cambridge University Press 1994

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  • J. A. J. Gowlett
  • R. H. Crompton

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