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The role of vision during Lower Palaeolithic tool-making

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Stone tools are the result of goal-oriented actions involving cognitive processes. Because visual attention is a requirement in accurate tool-making, visual exploration can provide information about the relationship between perception and technological evolution. The purpose of this study is to analyse visual behaviour while an expert knapper produces different stone tools, using a portable eye tracking device. To understand where gaze was directed moment by moment, different areas of interest were defined. The preliminary results show that the most observed areas were the middle region, the knapped surface, the first face of the tool being struck and the next point of percussion. There were differences in visual exploration between choppers and handaxes during knapping. The distal position, upper region, cortex and the first face of the tool being struck were more explored in choppers, while the base, knapped surface and first tool’s face knapped were more viewed for handaxes. These areas can be considered to be the most salient features needed to control knapping, hence constituting action affordances for the successful production of stone tools.

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We would like to thank Annapaola Fedato and Rodrigo Alonso-Alcalde for their technical support in this project and two reviewers for their helpful comments. This study is co-financed by the Junta de Castilla y León and European Social Funds (EDU/574/2018), by the Spanish Government (Project PID2021-122355NB-C33 financed by MCIN/AEI/FEDER), and by the Italian Institute of Anthropology (ISITA).

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Correspondence to María Silva-Gago.

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Silva-Gago, M., Terradillos-Bernal, M., Hodgson, T. et al. The role of vision during Lower Palaeolithic tool-making. J Paleo Arch 5, 19 (2022).

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