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Using Lithic Refitting to Investigate the Skill Learning Process: Lessons from Upper Paleolithic Assemblages at the Shirataki Sites in Hokkaido, Northern Japan

Part of the Replacement of Neanderthals by Modern Humans Series book series (RNMH)

Abstract

This paper investigates skill acquisition in the past through the analysis of refitted sets of lithic artifacts. The refitted sets belong to the late Upper Paleolithic (cal. 17–14 ka), and were obtained from the Hattoridai 2, Kamishirataki 2, and Kamishirataki 8 sites in Hokkaido, Northern Japan. Notable findings include the following. (1) Highly skilled knappers used various raw materials for blade production at the Kamishirataki 8 site. This suggests that the particular choice of lithic raw material “packages” is not always associated with different skill levels among knappers at the stage of lithic manufacture. (2) Missing blade cores (“ghost cores”) as well as missing blades (“ghost blades”) among the refitted sets can offer a useful signature of the knappers’ skill. (3) Novice knappers carried out simple training exercises at the Hattoridai 2 site, whereas the refitted sets from the Kamishirataki 2 site suggest that experts conducted pedagogical demonstrations for the benefit of one or more novices. The main conclusion from the analyses presented in this paper is that observation and imitation, as well as some kind of instruction, played significant roles in the skill learning process among the inhabitants of these Upper Paleolithic sites.

Keywords

  • Blade reduction
  • Lithic refitting
  • Shirataki sites
  • Skill learning
  • Upper Paleolithic

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Acknowledgements

The results discussed in this paper would not have been possible without the support of the Hokkaido Archaeological Operations Center. I would like to thank the organizer of the RNMH 2012 international conference in Tokyo, Takeru Akazawa who gives me an opportunity to contribute this volume. Also, I would like to thank Yoshihiro Nishiaki, Hiroto Nakata, Hiroyuki Suzuki, Yasuo Naoe, Yuichi Nakazawa and two anonymous reviewers for their comment and help. Of course, all errors and omissions are solely my responsibility. My research presented in this paper was supported by MEXT KAKENHI Grant Number 23101501.

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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 Humans Volume 1. Replacement of Neanderthals by Modern Humans Series. Springer, Tokyo. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-4-431-54511-8_9

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