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Materiality, Agency and Evolution of Lithic Technology: an Integrated Perspective for Palaeolithic Archaeology

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Considerations of materiality and object-oriented approaches have greatly influenced the development of archaeological theory in recent years. Yet, Palaeolithic archaeology has been slow in incorporating this emerging body of scholarship and exploring its bearing on the human deep past. This paper probes into the potential of materiality theory to clarify the material dynamics of the Plio-Pleistocene and seeks to re-articulate the debate on the evolution of our species with materiality discourses in archaeology and the humanities more broadly. We argue that the signature temporalities and geospatial scales of observation provided by the Palaeolithic record offer unique opportunities to examine the active role of material things, objects, artefacts and technologies in the emergence, stabilisation and transformation of hominin lifeworlds and the accretion of long-term trajectories of material culture change. We map three axes of human–thing relations—ecological, technical and evolutionary—and deploy a range of case studies from the literature to show that a critical re-assessment of material agency not only discloses novel insights and questions, but can also refine what we already know about the human deep past. Our exploration underscores the benefits of de-centring human behaviour and intentionality and demonstrates that materiality lends itself as a productive nexus of exchange and mutual inspiration for diverging schools and research interests in Palaeolithic archaeology. An integrated object-oriented perspective calls attention to the human condition as a product of millennial-scale human–thing co-adaptation, in the course of which hominins, artefacts and technologies continuously influenced and co-created each other.
OriginalsprogEngelsk
TidsskriftJournal of Archaeological Method and Theory
Vol/bind28
Nummer2
Sider (fra-til)617-670
Antal sider54
ISSN1072-5369
DOI
StatusUdgivet - jun. 2021

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