Complexity spaces will capture more a more nuanced understanding of technological evolution in the Pleistocene
In Paleolithic archaeology, we are interested in changes in complexity in technology, social networks, and communication over time. However, little research has been done to specify and quantify what is meant by ‘complexity.’ Recently that has begun to change.
All of these contributions seem promising, but they focus on different conceptualizations of complexity. Perault et al. (2013) develop the concept of techno-units. Mahaney (2013, 2014, In progress) has focused on individual action sequences, using complexity indices from information theory (Gabadnho et al. 2011) and graph theory. Rugg (2011) focuses on the organization of the foraging economy. Instead of attempting to develop a single complexity metric, perhaps archaeologists should attempt to situate lithic technologies in a complexity space comprise of multiple measures each capturing different aspects complexity. Elaboration may take place at different levels at different times. For instance, it may be the case that the transition from Oldowan to Acheulean technologies after 1.8 ma involved changes at the level of the individual action, techno-units or cultural recipes. However, the emergence of the Levallois and Mousterian technologies after 250 ka may represent increased economic complexity.