Opendata, web and dolomites


Do early stone tools indicate a hominin ability to accumulate culture?

Total Cost €


EC-Contrib. €






Project "STONECULT" data sheet

The following table provides information about the project.


Organization address
postcode: 72074

contact info
title: n.a.
name: n.a.
surname: n.a.
function: n.a.
email: n.a.
telephone: n.a.
fax: n.a.

 Coordinator Country Germany [DE]
 Total cost 1˙499˙837 €
 EC max contribution 1˙499˙837 € (100%)
 Programme 1. H2020-EU.1.1. (EXCELLENT SCIENCE - European Research Council (ERC))
 Code Call ERC-2016-STG
 Funding Scheme ERC-STG
 Starting year 2017
 Duration (year-month-day) from 2017-04-01   to  2022-03-31


Take a look of project's partnership.

# participants  country  role  EC contrib. [€] 


 Project objective

Cultural – not genetic – adaptations have allowed humans to colonise the planet. While discovering the roots of human culture has been described as one of the 125 most pressing scientific questions of our time (Science, 2005), it remains unclear when such forms of culture first arose in our lineage. Previous research has argued that similar social learning mechanisms underlie modern human as well as early hominin technology. But the latter shows periods of stasis – suggesting the underlying mechanisms were different. A better model for early hominins might be living non-human great apes. Instead of copying the behaviour from others with high fidelity (as modern humans do), ape approaches seem to be based on socially mediated individual reinventions (latent solutions; Tennie et al. 2009). Unlike high fidelity copying, latent solutions do not lead to 'cumulative cultural change', in which technological changes accrue over generations. Latent solutions are thus a core candidate to account for early hominin stone tools because, among other things, they provide an explanation for their stasis. Using both a top-down and a bottom-up testing approach, STONECULT will experimentally test whether early stone tools are manifestations of cumulative culture – currently the null hypothesis in the field – or whether they are best accounted for with the latent solutions model. That is, STONECULT will evaluate whether early stone tools were more similar to modern ape or modern human technologies. The outcomes and conclusions of STONECULT will therefore inform several fields at once (e.g. anthropology, archaeology, comparative psychology, ethology and primatology). This proposal is the first to test the new latent solutions account of early stone tools. If its predictions are confirmed, then cumulative culture will have emerged millions of years later in our lineage than is currently assumed. STONECULT will radically transform our understanding of the evolution of human culture.


year authors and title journal last update
List of publications.
2020 Damien Neadle, Elisa Bandini, Claudio Tennie
Testing the individual and social learning abilities of task-naïve captive chimpanzees ( Pan troglodytes sp. ) in a nut-cracking task
published pages: e8734, ISSN: 2167-8359, DOI: 10.7717/peerj.8734
PeerJ 8 2020-04-01
2020 Tamara Dogandžić, Aylar Abdolazadeh, George Leader, Li Li, Shannon P. McPherron, Claudio Tennie, Harold L. Dibble
The results of lithic experiments performed on glass cores are applicable to other raw materials
published pages: , ISSN: 1866-9557, DOI: 10.1007/s12520-019-00963-9
Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences 12/2 2020-04-01
2019 Tennie, Claudio
The Zone of Latent Solutions Account Remains theMost Parsimonious Explanation for Early Stone Tools
published pages: 331-332, ISSN: 0011-3204, DOI:
Current Anthropology 60:3 2019-11-26
2019 Carel P. van Schaik, Gauri R. Pradhan, Claudio Tennie
Teaching and curiosity: sequential drivers of cumulative cultural evolution in the hominin lineage
published pages: , ISSN: 0340-5443, DOI: 10.1007/s00265-018-2610-7
Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology 73/1 2019-11-26
2017 Claudio Tennie, L. S. Premo, David R. Braun, Shannon P. McPherron
Early Stone Tools and Cultural Transmission: Resetting the Null Hypothesis
published pages: 652-672, ISSN: 0011-3204, DOI: 10.1086/693846
Current Anthropology 58/5 2019-10-08
2017 Damien Neadle, Matthias Allritz, Claudio Tennie
Food cleaning in gorillas: Social learning is a possibility but not a necessity
published pages: e0188866, ISSN: 1932-6203, DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0188866
PLOS ONE 12/12 2019-10-08

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