Sophistication

cleaver aggsbach simpleMiddle English sophisticaten, to adulterate, from Medieval Latin sophisticre, sophistict-, from Latin sophisticus, sophistic, from Greek sophistikos, from sophists, sophist; see sophist.]. Being expert or having knowledge of some technical subject; “understanding volumetric concepts in flint knapping requires considerable sophistication”.

The simple cleaver shown in this post could be 1 Million or only 200 ka yrs old. After the Middle Pleistocene Sophistication in flint knapping can not automatically being interpreted as a trait of an advanced and chronological late technocomplex. Handaxes from Boxgrove  are much more sophisticated than handaxes from later sites in the SommeValley. Still Bay points are as sophisticated as Laurel Leaf Points from the Solutrean. MSA Points from different complexes in Botswana, the Horn of Africa and South Africa are more sophisticated than Mousterian Points from the OIS3 in Europe. Quina scrapers look often “primitive” allthough  they are often produced by a sophisticated technique. Holocene Pics from Portugal and Spain (Asturian) look like pebble tools from the Oldowan. At Dolni Vestonice Choppers have been dokumented by B. Klima during the Pavlovian occupations. “Mousterian” like tools are common in the Mesolithic of Northern Germany.

Implicitly or explicitly, concepts  in Prehistoric research are are often biased towards an evolutionary linear schematism. In this thinking, sophistication is not awaited before the “Human Revolution”. We should be more openminded  for more complex histories, unforseen data and new concepts.

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One Response to Sophistication

  1. Craig Riedl says:

    Here in the USA some of the most sophisticated lithic material is the oldest. The Clovis points were very well made and are about 10,000 to 15,000 yesars old. The later woodland points and knives are in most cases crudely made. There are exceptions at certain sites where there was excellent craftsmanship a few hundred years ago.
    Collectors have amassed huge collections from various locations. Certain point types are found in very small areas and other types are found in areas of thousands of square miles. It is unknown if the technology, artifacts or the tribal groups traveled over such vast distances.
    There is evidence of old Clovis points being picked up and reworked by more modern Native Americans cultures. This undoubtedly happened in many other area of the world. Homo sapiens picking up a Homo Neanderthalensis handaxe and reusing it. I reuse a flint knife I found that is perhaps a few thousand years old. I carry it around in my jacket pocket.

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