Raw material selectivity of the earliest stone toolmakers at Gona, Afar, Ethiopia

Dietrich Stout, Jay Quade, Sileshi Semaw, Michael J. Rogers, Naomi E. Levin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

157 Scopus citations


Published evidence of Oldowan stone exploitation generally supports the conclusion that patterns of raw material use were determined by local availability. This is contradicted by the results of systematic studies of raw material availability and use among the earliest known archaeological sites from Gona, Afar, Ethiopia. Artifact assemblages from six Pliocene archaeological sites were compared with six random cobble samples taken from associated conglomerates that record pene-contemporaneous raw material availability. Artifacts and cobbles were evaluated according to four variables intended to capture major elements of material quality: rock type, phenocryst percentage, average phenocryst size, and groundmass texture. Analyses of these variables provide evidence of hominid selectivity for raw material quality. These results demonstrate that raw material selectivity was a potential component of Oldowan technological organization from its earliest appearance and document a level of technological sophistication that is not always attributed to Pliocene hominids.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)365-380
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of human evolution
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2005


  • Cognition
  • Gona
  • Lithic technology
  • Oldowan
  • Pliocene
  • Raw materials

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Anthropology


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