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J Hum Evol. 2011 Apr;60(4):387-97. doi: 10.1016/j.jhevol.2009.11.012. Epub 2010 Mar 19.

Cultural conservatism and variability in the Acheulian sequence of Gesher Benot Ya'aqov.

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Institute of Archaeology, Hebrew University, Mt. Scopus, Jerusalem 91905, Israel.


The Acheulian Technocomplex exhibits two phenomena: variability and conservatism. Variability is expressed in the composition and frequencies of tool types, particularly in the varying frequencies of bifaces (handaxes and cleavers). Conservatism is expressed in the continuous presence of bifaces along an immense time trajectory. The site of Gesher Benot Ya'aqov (GBY) offers a unique opportunity to study aspects of variability and conservatism as a result of its long cultural-stratigraphic sequence containing superimposed lithic assemblages. This study explores aspects of variability and conservatism within the Acheulian lithic assemblages of GBY, with emphasis placed on the bifacial tools. While variability has been studied through a comparison of typological frequencies in a series of assemblages from the site, evidence for conservatism was examined in the production modes expressed by the reduction sequence of the bifaces. We demonstrate that while pronounced typological variability is observed among the GBY assemblages, they were all manufactured by the same technology. The technology, size, and morphology of the bifaces throughout the entire stratigraphic sequence of GBY reflect the strong conservatism of their makers. We conclude that the biface frequency cannot be considered as a chrono/cultural marker that might otherwise allow us to distinguish between different phases within the Acheulian. The variability observed within the assemblages is explained as a result of different activities, tasks, and functions, which were carried out at specific localities along the shores of the paleo-Hula Lake in the early Middle Pleistocene.

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