Social and socio-
Ontogeny and symbolism
The evolution of tools and symbolic behaviour
Tools constitute the most abundant evidence of hominid behaviour over the last two million years. While they have undeniably played an important, if not central, role in hominid ecology, they have also played a role in semiotic behaviour. This role probably had its origins in the agonistic use of tools we still see today in non-human primates. When we first encounter extensive use of stone tools, about two million years ago, the ecological context of use is not dramatically different from that of modern apes, and we may assume that the semiotic role of tools was also comparable. By one million years ago tools present patterns well outside the range of anything we know for apes, tempting some scholars to argue for the presence of language. However, given the cognitive and developmental contrasts between tool behaviour and language, such conclusions are unwarranted. At 300 000 BP the ecological context of tool behaviour was much like that of modern hunting and gathering, but the tools present an enigmatic conservatism in style that suggests a semiotic role very different from that of tools in modern culture. And yet the hominids appear to have had an almost modern intelligence. It is not until relatively late in human evolution, certainly by 15 000, that tools present the volatile time and space patterns typical of the indexical role of modern tools.
LinksFor further details, see SARC-Stone Age Reference Collection by Roger Grace at the Department of Art History and Numismatics, Institute of Archaeology, University of Oslo