Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences

, Volume 11, Issue 9, pp 4729–4754 | Cite as

Old stones’ song—second verse: use-wear analysis of rhyolite and fenetized andesite artifacts from the Oldowan lithic industry of Kanjera South, Kenya

  • Cristina LemoriniEmail author
  • Laura C. Bishop
  • Thomas W. Plummer
  • David R. Braun
  • Peter W. Ditchfield
  • James S. Oliver
Original Paper


This paper investigates Oldowan hominin behavioral ecology through use-wear analysis of artifacts from Kanjera South, Western Kenya. It extends development of our experimental use-wear reference collection and analysis of use-wear on the well preserved and unweathered Oldowan tools from this site to include rhyolite, a non-local material of similar durability to previously studied quartz and quartzite tools, and fenetized andesite, a local material with considerably less durability. Variability in rhyolite and fenetized andesite texture, inclusions, and matrix required enhancement of previous methods so we combine the use of stereoscopic, metallographic, and scanning electron microscopy in this study. This study allows us to begin exploration of the links between specific artifactual raw materials and the materials they were used to process. Data assembled so far suggest that tools fashioned from non-local and local stone were, with one possible exception, used to process similar materials. Additionally, experiments carried out with replicas of tools made of rhyolite and fenetized andesite confirm interpretation of reduction sequences that tools made of less durable local material had a shorter use-life and were used expediently compared to the more durable non-local quartz, quartzite, and rhyolite. These new data improve our understanding, of the functional needs, behavioral solutions, and cognitive capacities of Oldowan hominins. Finally, these data show how use-wear analysis, combined with lithic raw material and lithic technology, can be a powerful means for evaluating two key points for human evolution: long-term memory, and planning.


Oldowan lithic technology Use-wear Use-life Kanjera South 



We are grateful to the Office of the President of Kenya, and the National Museums of Kenya for permission to study the Kanjera fossils and artifacts. The Homa Peninsula field research was conducted through the cooperative agreement between the National Museums of Kenya and the Smithsonian Institution. Logistical support and funding was also provided by the Smithsonian’s Human Origins Program. Funding from the L. S. B. Leakey Foundation, the National Geographic Society, the National Science Foundation, the Wenner-Gren Foundation, and the Professional Staff Congress-City University of New York Research Award Program to TP for Kanjera field and laboratory work is gratefully acknowledged. We would like to thank Rick Potts and the Human Origins Program for support during all phases of the Kanjera research.

We are grateful to Emma Finestone and Fritz Hertel for their participation to the experimental activities related to this research.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of ClassicsUniversity of Rome SapienzaRomeItaly
  2. 2.The Sino-British CollegeUniversity of Shanghai for Science and TechnologyShanghaiPeople’s Republic of China
  3. 3.Research Centre in Evolutionary Anthropology and Palaeoecology, School of Natural Sciences and PsychologyLiverpool John Moores UniversityLiverpoolUK
  4. 4.Department of AnthropologyQueens College, CUNY & NYCEPFlushingUSA
  5. 5.Department of Anthropology, Columbian College of Arts & SciencesGeorge Washington UniversityWashington DCUSA
  6. 6.Research Laboratory for Archaeology and the History of Art, School of ArchaeologyUniversity of OxfordOxfordUK
  7. 7.Department of Geosciences, Earth and Mineral Sciences MuseumPenn State UniversityState CollegeUSA

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