How to write an archaeological paper


This is a preferential Levallois flake (ca 9 cm diameter) from a Middle Paleolithic workshop site in Southern France.

Every scientific field has its own conventions of discussing scientific results. Scientists are hominins that are usually highly adapted to current paradigms, provided by influential figures of their own discipline. These paradigms are communicated by congresses and publications. The common mainstream is enforced by the dependence of young investigators on their own scientific teachers and the conformism which enables individuals to survive in a potential dangerous intellectual environment.  In so far the situation of prehistoric anthropology is not very different to my own discipline (university medicine).

Here some ironic suggestions how to discuss lithic technology during the early and middle Paleolithic. By reviewing a random sample of 20 papers, I came to the conclusion that the same data can be used to develop a hypothesis or to substantiate the contrary. In this respect prehistoric archaeology (and other scientific fields) have some similarities to the discipline of psychoanalysis (Karl Kraus: “psychoanalysis is the disease for which it purports to be the cure”).

Predominance of handaxes and bifacial elements: Good quality of raw material; alternative view: bifacial tradition of an isolated group of hominins; alternative view: a “geste automatique” of hominines who made the tools; alternative view: predictable and flexible technology in a dangerous environment by transporting potential cores in the landscape; alternative view: element of successful adaption; alternative view: element of stasis; alternative view: indicator of specialized exploitation of resources after  people had already been present in the region for a longer time.

Predominance of small lithic artifacts:  Poor quality of raw material; alternative view: Microlithic tradition of an isolated group of hominins; alternative view: a “geste automatique” of hominins who made the tools with abilities not very different from the abilities of chimps; unspecialized exploitation of resources after a short residence time at the site; alternative view:  flexible technology in a dangerous environment used by cognitive advanced hominins; alternative view: simple technological system, simple opportunistic behavior; low level of conceptual thought.

Levallois concept:  Good quality of raw material; alternative view: predictable and flexible technology in a dangerous environment; alternative view: high level of conceptual thought; alternative view: expensive technology with great investments and only moderate outcome.

Non-Levallois concept:  Poor quality of raw material; alternative view: opportunistic behavior of silly hominins or opportunistic behavior of highly flexible hominins; alternative view: an inevitable consequence of raw material, that was used; alternative view: predictable and flexible technology in a dangerous environment; alternative view: either a high or low level of conceptual thought of either silly or wise hominins.

Man the toolmaker: After choosing your argumentation you can couple your suggestions with the hominins or, if you prefer: hominids, that could be the tool makers ( H. erectus, H. Heidelbergensis, Neanderthals, [archaic] H. sapiens).

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About Katzman

During my whole life I was fascinated by stone age artefacts. Not only the aesthetic qualities of these findings, but also the stories around them and the considerations arising from their discovery, are a part of my blog. Comments and contributions are allways welcome! About me: J.L. Katzman (Pseudonym). Born in Vienna. Left Austria in 1974 and did not regret. Studied Medicine and Prehistory at a German University. Member of a Medical Department at a German University. Copyright 2010-2017 by JLK. All Rights Reserved. You are welcome to use material in these posts so long as you cite the work.
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One Response to How to write an archaeological paper

  1. Although making simple toolmaking may have elicited originally in one type of environment, the carrying of stone tools over considerable distances – and becoming reliant on stone technology – may have arisen due to the benefits of altering the diet as environments changed. The oldest known stone technology – called Oldowan toolmaking – involved carrying rock over several kilometers and is found associated with a variety of ancient habitats. Redistributing stone and other resources, such as parts of animal carcasses, by transporting them may have helped hominins cope with variable habitats.

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