Adaptive Flexibility of Oldowan Hominins: Secondary Use of Flakes at Bizat Ruhama, Israel

Yossi Zaidner

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The lithic assemblage of the Early Pleistocene site of Bizat Ruhama, Israel demonstrates the earliest evidence for systematic secondary knapping of flakes. The site, dated to the Matuyama chron, is one of the earliest primary context Oldowan occurrences in Eurasia. According to the experimental replication of the stone-tool production sequence, the secondary knapping of flakes was a part of a multi-stage operational sequence targeted at the production of small (<2 cm) flakes. This sequence included four stages: acquisition of chert pebbles, production of flakes, deliberate selection of flakes of specific morphologies, and their secondary knapping by free-hand or bipolar methods. The results suggest that flakes with retouch-like scars that were produced during this sequence and which commonly are interpreted as shaped tools are unintentional waste products of the small flake production. The intentional manufacture of very small flakes at Bizat Ruhama was probably an economic response to the raw material constrains. Systematic secondary knapping of flakes has not yet been reported from other Early Pleistocene sites. Systematic secondary knapping for small flake production became increasingly important only in the lithic industries of the second half of the Middle Pleistocene, almost a million years later. The results from Bizat Ruhama indicate that Oldowan stone-tool production sequence was conceptually more complex than previously suggested and offer a new perspective on the capabilities for invention and the adaptive flexibility of the Oldowan hominins.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere66851
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number6
StatePublished - 20 Jun 2013

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research was conducted as part of YZ PhD dissertation supported by Research Authority, University of Haifa, Israel. I thank Avraham Ronen for his guidance, permission to study the material from the 1996 season of excavations and support through the years. The 2004–05 excavation seasons at Bizat Ruhama were generously funded by the L.S.B. Leakey Foundation. I am grateful to Erella Hovers and Ariel Malinsky-Buller for fruitful discussions and for comments on various drafts of this manuscript. Photos were prepared by Gaby Laron. The artifact drawings and illustrations were done by Elizabeta Maximov.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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