Handaxe symmetry in the Lower and Middle Palaeolithic: implications for the Acheulean gaze [Draft]

  • by James Cole

“Exploring the link between material culture production, hominin cognition, behavioural complexity and the development of language form some of the central tenants of Palaeolithic archaeological discourse. This paper aims to bring these components together by utilising a new theoretical perspective regarding hominin identity construction and the use of material culture in the story of language development – the identity model. The identity model proposes that in order for material culture to be imbued with symbolic social meaning, not only is a theory of mind (or second-order intentionality) essential, but it also must be superseded by a third-order of intentionality at a minimum. This premise will be examined using data pertaining to handaxe manufacture from the British Lower and Middle Palaeolithic in an effort to shed new light upon the cognitive landscape of ancient hominins. It is proposed that although hominins paid attention to form within handaxe manufacture, locked into the so-called Acheulean gaze (Foley and Gamble 2009), on the whole, they may not have realised the full potential of such a gaze to consciously off-load social interactions and culturally meaningful signals onto the material culture with which they interacted” (read more/open access).

(Open access source: F. Coward, R. Hosfield, M. Pope & F. Wenban-Smith (eds.), Settlement, Society and Cognition in Human Evolution: Landscapes in Mind. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2015 via; top image: artist unknown)

My only real interest in computing is as far as it helps us humans and our cognitive landscapes. The two biggest challenges facing people, it seems, is the cartography of their own cognitive landscape, and effectively sharing/illuminating that landscape with others. I believe that this whole net thing can help […]

I suspect that making the online diary may have had an entirely different set of implications for you, the ‘artist.’ In trying to put myself in your position, I thought that making my journal public record would at first be scary, but would eventually lead to a sort of isometry between my inner self and outer self. I imagine the image of a cell from biology class, and the way fluids can flow in and out depending at rates dependent upon various regulatory mechanisms. In everday [sic] life, we’re all sort of like that cell, and we strictly regulate how much remains inside our cell wall, how much remains outside, and what flows between. But some cells are in a stasis point, where pressure is equalized within and without the cell wall such that fluids are in equal balance throughout. At that point, anything can pass into or out of the cell passively. I feel that the online journal may contribute to such a state, between you the individual and the outside world. Whether that state is good or not, I am honestly not sure.

Aaron Weiss, in an email conversation with Carolyn L. Burke, April-May 1995

Carolyn L. Burke published one of the first online diaries beginning on 3 January 1995 and continuing, with interruptions, through 2002.


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Embedded within the vast structure of nested boundaries and ramifying networks, my muscular and skeletal, physiological, and nervous systems have been artificially augmented and expanded. My reach extends indefinably and interacts with the similarly extended reaches of others to produce a global system of transfer, actuation, sensing, and control. My biological body meshes with the city; the city itself has become not only the domain of my networked cognitive system, but also - and crucially - the spatial and material embodiment of that system.
—  William J. Mitchell.