Before Modern Humans ranges widely over major issues in the archaeology of human origins. Though the title suggests an exclusively African focus, McCall discusses evidence and issues from a wider geographic range. McCall is a leading advocate of an "organizational" approach to prehistory. Rather than trying to construct quasi-historical narratives of human evolution in which stone tool industries are stand-ins for actual evolutionary actors, McCall and scholars like him focus on the organizational properties of particular behaviors, such as toolmaking, subsistence choices, settlement patterns and the like. Working from principles derived from comparative methods in ethology and ethnography, they develop models for the strategic costs and benefits influencing those behaviors, and then test hypotheses about behavioral change and variability. Before Modern Humans is an example of this approach writ large. The book discusses many issues, but the two to which McCall devotes the most attention are differences between Earlier and Middle Stone Age lithic assemblages, the "scavenging/hunting" debate about Lower and Middle Pleistocene zooarchaeological assemblages. Throughout much of Africa, the period 0.20.3 Ma marks an inflection point in the stone tool evidence. Large accumulations of handaxes, other relatively thick and heavy stone tools are first augmented, then replaced,
Journal of African Archaeology – Brill
Published: Nov 1, 2015
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