The Apprentice Core: Evidence from a Lithic Refitting at the Upper Palaeolithic Site Kyushirataki-5 in Hokkaido, Northern Japan

  • Jun TakakuraEmail author
  • Yasuo Naoe
Part of the Replacement of Neanderthals by Modern Humans Series book series (RNMH)


The sequences of lithic reduction can be generally divided into discrete stages according to the chronological context of removal groups. Differences in technical skill levels between the reduction stages can inform us of shifts in knappers during the manufacturing processes and their relationships. This chapter presents an analysis of the stages of reduction in blade production among the refitted set no. 2997 from the Upper Palaeolithic site Kyushirataki-5 in Hokkaido, Northern Japan, and discusses whether a change in technical skill level occurred between the reduction stages. The identification of the skill levels is based on several diagnostic indicators of master and novice craftsmanship and whether there are missing blades (ghost blades). The results show that a change in the technical skill levels between the reduction stages occurred abruptly, and this can be interpreted as representing a shift in knappers from master to novice. The knapping of the novices, reusing the abandoned core, is thought to have been a training exercise for acquiring the skill of blade production. The evidence suggests that cores already knapped by masters were favored for use as the materials for novices’ exercises, even if plenty of lithic raw materials were easily available.


Blade reduction Knappers Lithic refitting Skill learning Upper Palaeolithic 


  1. Andrews B (2006) Skill and the question of blade crafting intensity at Classic period Teotihuacan. In: Apel J, Knutsson K (eds) Skilled production and social reproduction: aspects of traditional stone-tool technologies, SAU Stone studies 2. Societas Archaeologica Upsaliesis and Department of Archaeology and Ancient History, Uppsala University, Uppsala, pp 263–275Google Scholar
  2. Assaf E, Barkai R, Gopher A (2016) Knowledge transmission and apprentice flint-knappers in the Acheulo-Yabrudian: a case study from Qesem Cave, Israel. Quat Int 398:70–85CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Audouze F, Cattin M (2011) Flint wealth versus scarcity: consequences for Magdalenian apprenticeship. Lithic Technol 36:109–126CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Bamforth DB, Finlay N (2008) Introduction: archaeological approaches to lithic production skill and craft learning. J Archaeol Method Theory 15:1–27CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Bleed P (2002) Obviously sequential, but continuous or stages?: refits and cognition in three late Paleolithic assemblages from Japan. J Anthropol Archaeol 21:329–343CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Bodu P (1993) Analyse typo-technologique du material lithique de quelques unités du site Magdalénien de Pincevent (Saint-et-Marne). Applications spatiales, économiques et sociales. Ph.D. thesis, University of Paris I, ParisGoogle Scholar
  7. Bodu P, Karlin C, Ploux S (1990) Who’s who?: the Magdalenian flintknappers. In: Cziesla E, Eickhoff S, Arts N, Winter D (eds) Big puzzle: international symposium on refitting stone artefacts. Holos, Bonn, pp 143–164Google Scholar
  8. Chazan M (2012) Handaxes, concepts and teaching. Mind Brain Educ 6:197–203CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Clark JE (2003) Craftsmanship and craft specialization. In: Hirth KG (ed) Experimentation and interpretation in Mesoamerican lithic technology. University of Utah Press, Salt Lake City, pp 220–233Google Scholar
  10. Csibra G, Gergely G (2011) Natural pedagogy as evolutionary adaptation. Philos Trans R Soc B Biol Sci 366(1567):1149–1157CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Eren MI, Bradly AB, Sampson GC (2011a) Middle Paleolithic skill level and the individual knapper: an experiment. Am Antiq 76:229–251CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Eren MI, Lycett ST, Roos CI, Sampson GC (2011b) Toolstone constraints on knapping skill: Levallois reduction with two different raw materials. J Archaeol Sci 38:2731–2739CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Ferguson JR (2008) The when, where, and how of novices in craft production. J Archaeol Method Theory 15:51–67CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Finlay N (1997) Kid-knapping: the missing children in lithic analysis. In: Moore J, Scott E (eds) Invisible people and processes. Leicester University Press, Leicester, pp 203–212Google Scholar
  15. Finlay N (2008) Blank concerns: issues of skill and consistency in the replication of Scottish later mesolithic blades. J Archaeol Method Theory 15:68–90CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Gärdenfors P, Högberg A (2017) The archaeology of teaching and the evolution of Homo decens. Curr Anthropol 58:188–208CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Garfield ZH, Garfield MJ, Hewlett BS (2016) A cross-cultural analysis of hunter-gatherer social learning. In: Terashiam H, Hewlett B (eds) Social learning and innovation in contemporary hunter-gatherers. Springer, New York, pp 19–34CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Grimm L (2000) Apprentice flintkanpping: relating material culture and social practice in the Upper Paleolithic. In: Derevenski JS (ed) Children and material culture. Routledge, London/New York, pp 53–71Google Scholar
  19. Hewlett B, Berl REW, Roulette CJ (2016) Teaching and overimitation among Aka hunter-gatherers. In: Terashiam H, Hewlett B (eds) Social learning and innovation in contemporary hunter-gatherers. Springer, New York, pp 35–46CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Högberg A (2008) Playing with flint: tracing a child’s imitation of adult work in a lithic assemblage. J Archaeol Method Theory 15:112–131CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Högberg A (2016) A lithic attribute analysis on blades from the Middle Stone Age Site, Hollow Rock Shelter, Western Cape Province, South Africa. Lithic Technol 41:93–113CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Högberg A, Gärdenfors P, Larsson J (2015) Knowing, learning and teaching: how Homo became Docens. Camb Archaeol J 25:847–858CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Johansen L, Stapert D (2008) Stone age kids and their stones. In: Sørensen M, Desrosiers PM (eds) Technology and archaeology: proceedings of the SILA workshop. The National Museum Studies in Archaeology and History, vol 14, The National Museum of Denmark, Copenhagen, pp 15–39Google Scholar
  24. Karlin C, Julien M (1994) Prehistoric technology: a cognitive science? In: Renfrew C, Zubrow EB (eds) The ancient mind: elements of cognitive archaeology. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, pp 152–164CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Karlin C, Ploux S, Bodu P, Pigeot N (1993) Some socio-economic aspects of Hunters-gatherers in the Paris basin. In: Berthelet A, Chavaillon J (eds) The use of tools by human and non-human primates. Clarendon Press, Oxford, pp 318–337CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Kimura H (1992) Reexamination of the Yubetsu technique and study of the Horokazawa Toma lithic culture. Archaeological Museum of Sapporo University, SapporoGoogle Scholar
  27. Kimura H, Girya E (2016) Human activity patterns at the Horokazawa Toma Upper Paleolithic stone tool manufacturing site in the Shirataki obsidian source area: combining excavation with experimentation. Quat Int 397:448–473CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Knight CLF (2017) Children, apprenticeship and pedagogy: domestic crafting and obsidian core production at the Zaragoza-Oyameles source area in Puebla, Mexico. J Anthropol Archaeol 47:152–166CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Lohse JC (2011) Models on understanding skill and skill transmission. Lithic Technol 36:92–108CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Morrow TM (1996) Lithic refitting and archaeological site formation processes: a case study from the Twin Ditch site, Greene County, Illinois. In: Odell GH (ed) Stone tools: theoretical insights into human prehistory. Plenum, New York/London, pp 345–376CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Naganuma T, Sakamoto H, Suzuki H, Naoe Y (2000) Shirataki isekigun I [The Shirataki sites Vol. I], The Hokkaido Archaeological Operations Center, Ebetsu (In Japanese)Google Scholar
  32. Nakazawa Y, Izuho M, Takakura J, Yamada S (2005) Toward an understanding of technological variability in microblade assemblages in Hokkaido, Japan. Asian Perspect 44:276–292CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Naoe Y (2003) Hokkaido Shirataki I iseki ni mirareru sekki zukuri no gijyutsusa [A difference of skill in the lithic technology among the Shirataki I site, Hokkaido]. Koukogaku Jarnaru [Archaeol J] 504:20–24. (In Japanese)Google Scholar
  34. Naoe Y (2015) Sekki seisaku gijyutsu no denshou to gakushu: Hokkaido Shirataki isekigun shiryou wo motoni [Transmission and learning of lithic production technology: evidence from the Shirataki sites]. In: Proceedings of the 81th annual congress of the Japanese Archaeological Association. The Japanese Archaeological Association, Tokyo: 92–93 (In Japanese)Google Scholar
  35. Olive M (1988) Une habitation Magdalénienne d’Etiolles: L’unité P15, vol. 2. Memoire de la Société Préhistorique Francaise 20. S.P.F, ParisGoogle Scholar
  36. Perdaen Y, Noens G (2011) The social organization of technology: an early Mesolithic case study from the low countries. Lithic Technol 36:165–176CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Pigeot N (1987) Magdalénienne d’Etiolles. economie de débitage et organisation sociale, XXVe Suppl. Gallia Préhistoire. CNRS, ParisGoogle Scholar
  38. Pigeot N (1990) Technical and social actors: flintknapping specialists at Magdalenian Etiolles. Archaeol Rev Camb 9:126–141Google Scholar
  39. Sakamoto H (2013) Shirataki isekigun XIII [The Shirataki sites Vol. XIII], The Hokkaido Archaeological Operations Center, Ebetsu (In Japanese)Google Scholar
  40. Schurmans UA (2007) Refitting the old and new worlds. In: Schurmans UA, De Bie M (eds) Fitting rocks: lithic refitting examined, BAR International Series 1596. Arhaeopress, Oxford, pp 7–23Google Scholar
  41. Shea JJ (2006) Child’s play: reflections on the invisibility of children in the Paleolithic record. Evol Anthropol 15:212–216CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Shelley PH (1990) Variation in lithic assemblages: an experiment. J F Archaeol 17:187–193Google Scholar
  43. Shipton C (2010) Imitation and shared intentionality in the Acheulean. Camb Archaeol J 20:197–210CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Shott MJ, Lindly JM, Clark GA (2011) Continuous modelling of core reduction: lessons from refitting cores from WHS 623x, an Upper Paleolithic site in Jordan. PaleoAnthropology 2011:320–333Google Scholar
  45. Sternke F (2011) Struck between a rock and hard place: skill transmission and differential raw material use in Mesolithic Ireland. Lithic Technol 36:221–236CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Stout D (2011) Stone toolmaking and the evolution of human culture and cognition. Philos Trans R Soc B 366(1567):1050–1059CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Suzuki H (2007) Gensanchi iseki niokeru iseki kan heni kenkyu: Hokkaido Engaru-cho Shirataki isekigun chutsudo no kogata funazoko gata sekki sekkigun wo taishou toshite [A study on the inter-site variability among the sites nearby the source of lithic raw material: an example from the assemblages with small boat shaped tools in the Shirataki sites, Engaru, Hokkaido]. In: The Department of archaeology, the graduated school of letters at Tohoku University (eds) Koukogaku dansou [papers of archaeology]. Rokuichi Shobou, Tokyo, pp 109–130. (In Japanese)Google Scholar
  48. Suzuki H (2016) Ko Hokkaido hantou niokeru MIS 23 ki no Shirataki san kokuyouseki no saishu to sono hensen [Procurement of Shirataki obsidian and its transition during MIS 2 and 3 in the Paleo-Hokkaido-Sakhalin Peninsula]. Kyusekki Kenkyu [Palaeolithic Res] 12:23–46. (In Japanese with English summary)Google Scholar
  49. Takakura J (2010) Refitted material and consideration of lithic reduction sequence among the microblade assemblages: a view from the Okushirataki-1 site, Hokkaido, Northern Japan. Asian Perspect 49:332–347CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Takakura J (2013) Using lithic refitting to investigate the skill learning process: lessons from Upper Paleolithic assemblages at the Shirataki sites in Hokkaido, Northern Japan. In: Akazawa T, Nishiaki Y, Aoki K (eds) Dynamics of learning in Neanderthals and modern human 1: cultural perspectives. Springer, New York, pp 151–171CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Takakura J (2014) Sekki setsugou shiryou kara warite no koutai wo yomitoru: Hokkaido Monbetsu-gun Engaru-chou Kyushirataki-5 iseki no shutsudo shiryou wo jirei ni [Revealing shifts in the knappers from the lithic refitted sets: a case from the Kyushirataki-5 site in Engaru, Hokkaido]. In: Nishiaki Y (ed) Kouko shiryou ni motozuku Kyujin-Shinjin no gakusyu koudou no jishouteki kenkyu [Archaeological research of the learning behaviors of Neanderthals and early modern humans] 4. The University Museum, The University of Tokyo, Tokyo, pp 71–77. In JapaneseGoogle Scholar
  52. Tehrani JJ, Riede F (2008) Towards an archaeology of pedagogy: learning, teaching, and the generation of material culture. World Archaeol 40:316–331CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Terashima H (2016) Hunter-gatherers and learning in nature. In: Terashiam H, Hewlett B (eds) Social learning and innovation in contemporary hunter-gatherers. Springer, New York, pp 253–266CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Tomasello M (2009) The cultural origins of human cognition. Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MACrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Wada K, Mukai M, Sano K, Izuho M, Sato H (2014) Chemical composition of obsidians in Hokkaido island, northern Japan: the importance of geological and petrological data for source studies. In: Ono A, Glascock MD, Kuzmin YV, Suda Y (eds) Methodological issues for characterization and provenance studies of obsidian in Northeast Asia, BAR International series 2620. Archaeopress, Oxford, pp 67–82Google Scholar
  56. Yakushige M, Sato H (2014) Shirataki obsidian exploitations and circulation in prehistoric northern Japan. J Lithic Stud 1:319–342Google Scholar
  57. Yoshizaki M (1961) Shirataki iseki to Hokkaido no Mudoki bunka [The Shirataki site and the non-ceramic culture in Hokkaido]. Minzokugaku Kenkyu [Jpn J Ethnol] 26(1):13–23. (In Japanese)Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Archaeological Research CenterHokkaido UniversitySapporoJapan
  2. 2.Hokkaido Archaeological Operations CenterEbetsuJapan

Personalised recommendations