Background: Middle Palaeolithic stone artefacts referred to as 'Levallois' have caused considerable debate regarding issues of technological predetermination, cognition and linguistic capacities in extinct hominins. Their association with both Neanderthals and early modern humans has, in particular, fuelled such debate. Yet, controversy exists regarding the extent of 'predetermination' and 'standardization' in so-called 'preferential Levallois flakes' (PLFs). Methodology/Principal Findings: Using an experimental and morphometric approach, we assess the degree of standardization in PLFs compared to the flakes produced during their manufacture. PLFs possess specific properties that unite them robustly as a group or 'category' of flake. The properties that do so, relate most strongly to relative flake thicknesses across their surface area. PLFs also exhibit significantly less variability than the flakes generated during their production. Again, this is most evident in flake thickness variables. A further aim of our study was to assess whether the particular PLF attributes identified during our analyses can be related to current knowledge regarding flake functionality and utility. Conclusions/Significance: PLFs are standardized in such a manner that they may be considered 'predetermined' with regard to a specific set of properties that distinguishes them statistically from a majority of other flakes. Moreover, their attributes can be linked to factors that, based on current knowledge, are desirable features in flake tools (e.g. durability, capacity for retouch, and reduction of torque). As such, our results support the hypothesis that the lengthy, multi-phase, and hierarchically organized process of Levallois reduction was a deliberate, engineered strategy orientated toward specific goals. In turn, our results support suggestions that Levallois knapping relied on a cognitive capacity for long-term working memory. This is consistent with recent evidence suggesting that cognitive distinctions between later Pleistocene hominins such as the Neanderthals and anatomically modern humans were not as sharp as some scholars have previously suggested. © 2012 Eren, Lycett.
Eren, M. I., & Lycett, S. J. (2012). Why Levallois? A morphometric comparison of experimental “preferential” Levallois flakes versus debitage flakes. PLoS ONE, 7(1). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0029273