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PLoS One. 2017 Nov 16;12(11):e0188337. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0188337. eCollection 2017.

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

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Institute of Archaeology, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Jerusalem, Israel.
The Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel School for Advanced Studies in the Humanities, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Jerusalem, Israel.
Department of Anthropology, University of Colorado, Colorado Springs, Colorado, United States of America.


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.

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