Expert cognition in the production sequence of Acheulian cleavers at Gesher Benot Ya’aqov, Israel: A lithic and cognitive analysis

Gadi Herzlinger, Thomas Wynn, Naama Goren-Inbar

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Stone cleavers are one of the most distinctive components of the Acheulian toolkit. These tools were produced as part of a long and complex reduction sequence and they provide indications for planning and remarkable knapping skill. These aspects hold implications regarding the cognitive complexity and abilities of their makers and users. In this study we have analyzed a cleaver assemblage originating from the Acheulian site of Gesher Benot Ya‘aqov, Israel, to provide a reconstruction of the chaîne opératoire which structured their production. This reduction sequence was taken as the basis for a cognitive analysis which allowed us to draw conclusion regarding numerous behavioral and cognitive aspects of the GBY hominins. The results indicate that the cleavers production incorporated a highly specific sequence of decisions and actions which resulted in three distinct modes of cleavers modification. Furthermore, the decision to produce a cleaver must have been taken very early in the sequence, thus differentiating its production from that of handaxes. The substantial predetermination and the specific reduction sequence provide evidence that the Gesher Benot Ya‘aqov hominins had a number of cognitive categories such as a general ‘tool concept’ and a more specific ‘cleaver concept’, setting them apart from earlier tool-producing hominins and extant tool-using non-human primates. Furthermore, it appears that the Gesher Benot Ya‘aqov lithic technology was governed by expert cognition, which is the kind of thinking typical of modern human experts in their various domains. Thus, the results provide direct indications that important components of modern cognition have been well established in the minds of the Gesher Benot Ya‘aqov hominins.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0188337
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 2017
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2017 Herzlinger et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences
  • General


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