To Err Is Human: Knapping Expertise and Technological Variability at the Middle Palaeolithic Site of Nesher Ramla, Israel

Laura Centi*, Francesco Valletta, Yossi Zaidner

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


One important aspect affecting variability in core reduction technology is the degree of expertise of knappers. In the present paper, we show that, at the Middle Palaeolithic open-air site of Nesher Ramla, the degree of expertise of ancient knappers played a major role in shaping the composition of the lithic assemblage. Using robust markers of knapping skill, such as the frequency and reiteration of decision mistakes in the knapping process, allowed us to establish that a clear relationship exists between the degree of structuring of core technologies and the degree of expertise of the knapper at Nesher Ramla. Simple core technologies (e.g. pebble and multiple surface cores) can be linked to the work of novices, while more structured technologies (e.g. Levallois) are linked to the work of more experienced individuals. In addition, we apply for the first time a 3D-based procedure for identifying the causes that possibly lead to knapping accidents, specifically potential errors in the evaluation of the reduction surface exterior platform angle and/or its profile. Tying simple core technologies with the work of unexpert knappers allowed us to explore otherwise elusive social-cultural aspects of past hunter-gatherer societies such as age structuring. Specifically, we suggest that during the most intense phases of occupation in Nesher Ramla, children and/or young adults were present at the site alongside adults.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)103-126
Number of pages24
JournalJournal of Archaeological Method and Theory
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 2023

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The study was conceived by L.C. Lithic analysis was conducted by L.C. The 3D procedure for measuring exterior platform angle and surface profile was developed by F.V. Statistical analysis was conducted by F.V. Funding for the study was provided by Y.Z. and L.C. The first draft of the manuscript was written by L.C. and F.V. All authors edited, provided feedback and reviewed the manuscript.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022, The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature.


  • Group composition
  • Knapping expertise
  • Knowledge
  • Lithic technology
  • Variability


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