Jesse S. Cook III (jcook@AWOD.COM)
Sun, 18 Aug 1996 13:27:55 -0400

On 17 August 1996, Nicholas Gessler replied:

"[I]f the question is one of the transmission of stone toolmaking techniques
from one generation to another, [t]he observation that one can learn
directly from the artifact itself suggests that culture can be
way of both the observation of behavior (watching others) and the
observation of the results of that behavior (...the artifact itself)."

There is something that you are overlooking. When you and your friends set
out to reproduce one or more stone tools, you knew what the originals were
because someone told you what they were.

Had you not had someone identify these objects for you, had they just been
lying around on the ground, you wouldn't have had a clue because you would
have had no need that would have had you looking for something like them.
They would have appeared to be nothing more than pieces of flint or whatever.

Furthermore, in addition to knowing what they were, you knew, at least in
general, what they were supposed to be used for. In other words, you came
to the task with some essential knowledge that you, no doubt, acquired
through language of one sort or another; and, therefore, in still another
way, to repeat what I said before, "your experience does not 'back up John's

Now, having disposed of your defence of John's ill-considered remarks, let's
get back to reality. I have no doubt whatsoever that, *in the beginning*,
"the transmission of stone toolmaking techniques from one generation to
another" was carried out "by way of both the observation of behavior...and
the observation of the results of that behavior...", but that both
observations were carried out at the same time in each instance.
Furthermore, I have little doubt that these activities were carried out in
the absence of language.

Finally, to my question: "Did you try them out to see if they would serve?",
you answered:

"We never tried to systematically discover and reproduce their purposes.
However, the tools worked exceedingly well for a number of our purposes such
as shaving, butchering, skinning, hide-scraping, bone incising, tree
felling, wood working, digging, and decorat[ing]."

I'm sorry to say that I am incredulous. With the stone tools that you made,
what kind of animal(s) did you skin, butcher, and scrape; what kind of bone
did you incise and what kind of incisions did you make; what kind of tree(s)
did you fell and what size; what kind of wood-working did you do; and what
sort of decorating did you do?

With your perfect recall, even after 30 years, you should be able to
remember those details. BTW, was any of this ever written up and published?
It certainly would have made a significant addition to the literature if you
did indeed do all of those things with those tools.

Jesse S. Cook III E-Mail:
Post Office Box 40984 or
Charleston, SC 29485 USA

"Our attitude toward others is not determined by who *they* are;
it is determined by who *we* are."