Later Acheulian Stone Tools (circa 500,000 to 100,000 BP)

An overview of research on the Later Acheulian Period suggests that there are at least five Acheulian and five non-Acheulian stone tool traditions. These are listed below. (For a more detailed summary see Notes on Later Acheulian Symbol Systems and Spiritual Principles.) The gallery gives examples of handaxes and other tool types from some of these industries. Perhaps two of the most important innovations of the Later Acheulian Period compared to the Middle Acheulian is the use of 'soft hammer' and other sophisticated flaking techniques and the rise of the ovate-shaped 'handaxe' which is believed to be highly functional in meatcutting.

1. British ‘Ovate-Cordiform’ Tradition – begins in OIS 13 (Boxgrove) and by OIS 11 has at least two subgroups, the Pointed Cordiform Group with subtriangulars (Swanscombe Middle Gravels) and the Ovate or Twisted Ovate Group (Swanscombe Upper Loam), and these traditions continue into OIS 9, e.g., Pointed Cordiform at Hoxne Upper and Wolvercote and Ovate at Hoxne Lower. This tradition seems to replace the preceding Middle Acheulian tradition of Abbevillian-style handaxes in Britain.
2. British ‘Cleaver’ Tradition – appears in OIS 9 (perhaps a variant of the Saint-Acheul Group OIS 9, with less emphasis on oval forms or a British Pointed Cordiform with cleavers).
3. European ‘Classic Acheulian’ Tradition – prevalent by OIS 11 and continuing strong in OIS 9, with all three handaxe type categories, triangular-lanceolates, cordiform-amygdaloids, and discoid-ovate-limandes, with or without cleavers, and by OIS 8 and 7 a fading of emphasis on oval forms.
4. Near Eastern ‘Ovate-Cordiform’ Tradition. This ovate cordiform tradition appears to have replaced a Middle Acheulian tradition that emphasized lanceolates and picks.
5. African ‘Ovate-Cordiform-Cleaver’ Tradition. To the Middle Acheulian African regional biface tradition, which appears to consist of the predominance of the cordiform and cleaver pair, the Later Acheulians add the ovate form.

To these five Acheulian traditions must be added at least five non-handaxe traditions including:

6. European ‘Chopper and Flake’ Tradition – dating from OIS 11 and OIS 9 in Britain, type-site Clacton-on-Sea, using Clacton anvil and direct percussion technique to make scraper, notch and denticulate, billhook as well as chopper and choppingtools from cores; with Tayac and Quinson points and rare handaxes in France (OIS 11 through OIS 6); called Tayacian Tradition at Terra Amata and Baume Bonne;
7. European ‘Chopper-Chopping Tool’ Tradition (CCC) – also called ‘Jabeekian’ after its type site, uses bipolar, buffer, and double buffer techniques, with many core choppers as well as chopping tools, billhooks, burins, becs, Tayac points, scrapers and tabular rhomboid anvils. There are also ‘protobifaces’ including flake cleavers ‘handaxes’ and ‘picks’ and rhomboids (probably OIS 11). There is a micro-CCC at Lunteran, NL; Crau, France and other sites;
8. European ‘Microlithic Chopper and Flake’ Tradition – microlithic ‘pebbletool’ industry using bipolar technique with Tayac and/or Quinson points, with rare thick or partial bifaces, emergent by OIS 11 and continuing in subsequent periods, e.g., Bilzingsleben, Arago, Vértesszöllös. This tradition may be a microlithic Chopper and Flake industry or a variant of micro-CCC;
9. European ‘Boukoulian’ Tradition – microlithic tradition emergent by OIS 11 as in Boukoulian industry and continuing into subsequent periods. Uses ‘workbench anvil’, ‘egg-in-cup’ or abrasion against anvil techniques, with no bipolar or buffer and little Clacton technique to make choppers and choppingtools, bifacial and unifacial handaxes and cleavers, scrapers, borers, various points, and retouched flakes of thick triangular, cordiform and ovate aspect;
10. Asian ‘Chopper-Chopping Tool’ Tradition – in China as at Zhoukoudian from OIS 12 and 9, bipolar anvil technique, with some features in common with the European Clactonian.

Photo © as noted

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