Purposeful tool use in early lithic technologies

Chris Baber, Klint Janulis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)
211 Downloads (Pure)


Tool use can be considered in terms of purposeful behaviour. This emphasis on ‘purpose’ hides a host of assumptions about the nature of cognition and its relationship with physical activity. In particular, a notion of ‘purpose’ might assume that this is teleological which, in turn, requires a model of a desired end state of an action that can be projected onto the environment. Such a model is fundamental to traditional descriptions of cognition and a version of this can be found in the ‘template’ theory of stone-tool production (i.e. where the maker of the tool has a model in mind and attempts to reproduce this model in stone). Against this cognitive perspective, a number of approaches have been proposed that share their roots in the work of Gibson (i.e. ecological psychology) or Bernstein (i.e. dynamic systems). From these perspectives, ‘purpose’ is not a matter of a projection but opportunity; put simply, an action is performed until it need not be performed further. Trivial though this might sound, it has implications for how we define purpose and how this might apply to our understanding of tool use. We argue from a dynamic systems perspective and demonstrate the use of tools to crack bones for marrow extraction.
Original languageEnglish
JournalAdaptive Behavior
Early online date5 Aug 2020
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 5 Aug 2020


  • Purposeful behaviour
  • dynamic systems
  • marrow extraction
  • tool use


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