Handaxe types, colonization waves, and social norms in the British Acheulean

Ceri Shipton, Mark White

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


    The handaxes of north-western Europe are some of the most varied in the Acheulean world, with the meanings of that variation debated since the late nineteenth century. To reassess handaxe form in this region, we performed a 3D morphometric analysis of 150 handaxes from five British Acheulean assemblages: Boxgrove, High Lodge, Hitchin, Swanscombe Middle Gravels, and Broom. Regression analyses indicate the importance of the effects of allometry and the assemblage to which the handaxe belongs on shape variation. Marine Isotope Stage (MIS) 11c assemblages Hitchin and Swanscombe occupy significantly different shape space from both the MIS13 assemblages Boxgrove and High Lodge, and the MIS9 assemblage of Broom. Handaxe types such as ovates, cordates, limandes, triangular, and ficrons occupy unique areas of shape space in plan form. Twisted-profile and planoconvex handaxes are distinctive in their profile forms from handaxes with similar plan forms. We suggest that the distinctive and difficult to produce handaxes types that characterize the British Late Acheulean were reproduced according to normative expectations of what handaxes should look like. Different occupation phases in MIS13, MIS11c, and MIS9 are characterized by different suites of handaxe types, likely as the result of different waves of colonization with different normative social traditions.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)-
    JournalJournal of Archaeological Science: Reports
    Publication statusPublished - 2020


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