Jay S. Reti

Ph.D. 2013, Rutgers University

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Contact Information:

J.S. Reti
Rutgers University
Holt Laboratory for Paleoanthropology
131 George St.
New Brunswick, NJ 08901
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Research Interests:

My research goals concern the quantitative reconstruction of differential stone tool production behaviors among Oldowan hominins. To accomplish these goals, I have developed a new method of analysis called Behavioral Lithic Analysis (BLA). BLA uses replicated stone tool assemblages to identify morphological markers that accurately identify stone tools produced using known behaviors. These known behaviors are then used as a baseline model to compare archaeological material of unknown behavioral origin. My dissertation work compares the production behaviors of Koobi Fora, Northern Kenya Oldowan-producing hominins to those production behaviors utilized at Olduvai Gorge, Tanzania. The replication experiments outlined in BLA methodology must occur using the same raw materials utilized by the stone tool producers who created the archaeological assemblage in question. I am therefore replicating Oldowan assemblages using raw materials native to the Lake Turkana Basin and to Olduvai Gorge.

Broadly, BLA will provide a means of answering a broad array of questions concerning both the Oldowan and other stone tool industries:

  • How do Oldowan production behaviors vary on an inter- and intra-regional scale?
  • What selective pressures led to differences and/or similarities in stone tool production behaviors?
  • How does site usage vary in terms of technology both within and between archaeological regions?
  • What does technological variation mean in terms of stone tool function, ranging behaviors, and cultural maintenance?
  • How do the fracture mechanics of different raw materials affect how they were utilized for stone tool manufacture?
  • Can we determine raw material preference based on how stone tools were produced?

The importance of determining production behaviors associated with both individual flakes and entire archaeological assemblages is the comparative value of this information. When the specific methods of production are understood, production methods between sites, both temporally and geographically, become directly comparable. This means that technological behaviors can be compared between sites to determine relationships of technology through time (the evolution of stone tool technology) and how technology was utilized to cope with changing environmental conditions. My research attempts to build a bridge between analytical techniques so that researchers studying vastly different sites can begin asking new questions and addressing these questions in novel, comparative, and collaborative ways.

Research Projects:

Koobi Fora-Olduvai Gorge Comparative Lithics Project: Despite the long history of archaeological analysis at the renowned East African sites of Koobi Fora and Olduvai Gorge, no direct, quantitative comparison of lithic assemblages has ever been undertaken. My Comparative Lithics Project seeks to quantify and identify the individual production behaviors utilized to create the Oldowan stone tools in each respective region. Since the early descriptions of Oldowan lithic implements by L.S.B. and Mary Leakey, the Oldowan has been largely considered a uniform technology; it has been described as simple, expedient, and primitive. However, as more evidence comes to the surface, it appears that Oldowan hominins demonstrated preferences for particular raw materials, forethought in how they procured those raw materials, and a complex understanding of stone fracture mechanics. But did hominins in different regions produce stone tools in the same ways? If so, how was this similarity maintained? If not, what selective pressures or cultural norms led to this difference? The development of the methodology that allows for these conclusions to be reached also provides a way for researchers to directly compare technological production behaviors between a broad array of sites.


Experimental Acheulean Studies: The Acheulean remains a famous, yet poorly understood, technology. Though thousands upon thousands of Acheulean bifaces have been recovered, the production behaviors associated with these artifacts remains elusive. Many theories have been put forward regarding the purpose, function, and symmetrical maintenance of the hand-axe, but none have quieted the debate of what the true purpose for hand-axe production was. The Experimental Acheulean Project uses a middle range approach to the Acheulean by replicating bifaces beginning with the initial stage of production. Spalling experiments examining what variables determine successful flake removal, including hammer size, boulder size and shape, and force used will provide useful insights into the unique production behavior associated with the Acheulean: large flake production.


Raw Material Fracture Analysis: Oldowan hominins had a clear understanding of how rock differentially fractured and utilized this knowledge to create large assemblages of stone tools. Did these hominins utilize different behaviors with different raw materials due to differences in the way each raw material fractured? Current research is examining the consistency with which materials from Olduvai Gorge, Tanzania and Koobi Fora, Kenya fracture. Combined with results from the Comparative Lithics Project, understanding differential fracture mechanics will allow for more definitive conclusions of how hominins utilized their surrounding resources and how hominin populations differed from one another in terms of their technological behaviors.


Graduate Committee:

Research Grants:

Fellowships and Honors:

Presentations and Publications:

  • Reti, J.S. (2009). Quantified Oldowan lithic artifact production: results and discussion of behavioral lithic classification. PaleoAnthropology 2009:A1-A40.
  • Reti, J.S. (submitted). Quantifying stone tool production behaviors: Analyzing KBS industry production methods using Behavioral Lithic Analysis. Journal of Human Evolution
  • Reti, J.S. (in progress). Early Stone Age lithic artifact analysis in East Africa: European origins, current limitations, and future directions. Slated for Current Anthropology, Draft Completed, Submission in November 2010
  • Reti, J.S. (in progress). Behavioral Lithic Analysis (BLA) and its place in archaeological theory. Slated for Journal of Archaeological Science, Manuscript in progress, Submission in December 2010
  • Reti, J.S. (2011, pending acceptance). Darwinian archaeology applied to Oldowan technology. Society of American Archaeologists Annual Meeting, Sacramento, CA.
  • Reti, J.S. (2011, pending acceptance). Morphological variation between Oldowan assemblages from Olduvai Gorge, Tanzania and Koobi Fora, Kenya and implications for Behavioral Lithic Analysis. American Association of Physical Anthropologists Annual Meeting, Minneapolis, MN.
  • Reti, J.S. (2011, pending acceptance). Methodological results of Behavioral Lithic Analysis as a sensitive tool for detecting stone tool production differences. Paleoanthropology Society Annual Meeting, Minneapolis, MN.
  • Reti, J.S. (2011). Using stone tools to mark globalization: archaeological methods for identifying cultural change and relationships. Conference on International History, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA.
  • Reti, J.S., Presnyakova, D., and Harris, J.W.K. (2011, pending acceptance). Acheulean large flake production: experimental methods and implications for behavioral reconstruction. International Acheulean Symposium, Chongok, South Korea.

Research Groups and Affiliations:


  • Bachelor of Arts in Anthropology, June 2006
    University of California, Los Angeles
  • Masters of Arts in Anthropology, January 2010
    Rutgers University
  • Ph.D. Candidate in Anthropology, Defense: May 2012
    Rutgers University