“AXES OF POWER”
THE INVENTION OF THE HANDAXE
1.76 million years ago
|Early handaxes and cleavers made from large flakes of lava from the early Acheulean site of Peninj, Lake Natron, Tanzania, ca. 1.5 million years old.
Credit: Photo by Kathy Schick, courtesy of the Stone Age Institute. All right reserved.
Between 1.7 and 1.5 million years ago, stone age hominins began to make new types of tools. By either striking large flake blanks from boulder cores, or by using large river cobbles the began to make crude pointed or oval-shaped objects called handaxes by archaeologists, and sharp, guillotine-bit cleavers. These types of tools are characteristic of the Acheulean industry, which begins to replace the simpler Oldowan industry starting at this time.
Handaxes and cleavers, which are found between 1.5 million years ago and 250,000 years ago, are especially known from Africa, the Near East, and Western Europe, but not from Eastern Europe and East Asia, where simpler technologies lasted for a much longer time. Experiments have shown that handaxes and cleavers make excellent heavy-duty animal butchery tools, and microscopic use-wear studies of actual handaxes have indicated many of them were, in fact, butchery knives. The first handaxes appear in the prehistoric record at roughly the same time that Homo erectus appeared, and it is likely that the earliest handaxe makers were this species of hominin.
|This is an image of a handaxe from Olduvai Gorge dated to about 1.2mya.
Credit: Photo by BabelStone, courtesy of Wikipedia.
HOW DO WE KNOW?
Sites in East Africa, notably Konso Gardula and Gona in Ethiopia, West Turkana in Kenya, and Olduvai Gorge in Tanzania, bear witness to the emergence of early handaxe and cleaver industries.
WHY SHOULD I CARE?
These early handaxe makers were your ancestors. They were developing more sophisticated technologies for exploiting their world, as seen in the early Acheulean of Africa.
This is an article about Olduwan handaxes.
This website is about Oldowan and Acheulean handaxes.
This University of Missouri Museum of Anthropology webpage is about Oldowan and Acheulean stone tools.
This YouTube video shows beef or pork ribs being cut using Oldowan and Acheulean type stone tools.
Continue to overview of Time Scale 5
Continue to Event 41