Measuring ancient technological complexity and its cognitive implications using Petri nets

Sebastian Fajardo*, Paul R.B. Kozowyk, Geeske H.J. Langejans

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

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Abstract

We implement a method from computer sciences to address a challenge in Paleolithic archaeology: how to infer cognition differences from material culture. Archaeological material culture is linked to cognition, and more complex ancient technologies are assumed to have required complex cognition. We present an application of Petri net analysis to compare Neanderthal tar production technologies and tie the results to cognitive requirements. We applied three complexity metrics, each relying on their own unique definitions of complexity, to the modeled production processes. Based on the results, we propose that Neanderthal technical cognition may have been analogous to that of contemporary modern humans. This method also enables us to distinguish the high-order cognitive functions combining traits like planning, inhibitory control, and learning that were likely required by different ancient technological processes. The Petri net approach can contribute to our understanding of technology and cognitive evolution as it can be used on different materials and technologies, across time and species.

Original languageEnglish
Article number14961
Number of pages15
JournalScientific Reports
Volume13
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2023

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