EP Gallery: Middle Acheulian -- Olorgesailie, Olduvai Gorge, Near East, Abbevillian (c. 1.0 MYA to 500,000 BP)

Three-dimensionally symmetric bifaces (handaxes) reflect a Euclidean, projective sense of space [Wynn, T. (1989). The Evolution of Spatial Intelligence] which appears to emerge between 1 million and 600,000 years ago. Representative of this subphase are bifaces from African sites such as Olorgesailie, Kenya (c. 750,000-999,000 MYA) and Olduvai Gorge Bed IV (600,000-800,000 BP); Near Eastern sites such as Joub Jannine II (800-900,000 BP), Gesher Benot Ya'akov (780,000 BP) and Latamne (500-700,000 BP); and the European 'Abbevillian' style (c. 600,000 BP). In addition to the new 3-D sense of space, in comparison to the Early Acheulian, the Middle Acheulians appear to standardize biface manufacture to two predominant biface types, with a pair of type--lanceolate and pick or cordiform and cleaver--characterizing the Near Eastern and African traditions respectively.

I propose that to the Middle Acheulians used biface pairings to symbolize and presence the reparation and restoration of two kinds of core-essence conceived as gesture-movements. One was embodied and ‘sheath-like’, transformative like birthgiving and dying. It was energized through intercourse, sexual intercourse, symbolic exchange, creative intercourse, and intercourse with the living beings of the biosphere. The other was spirit and ‘vehicle-like’, an invisible force of aliveness, an animating force or spirit, the strength of which could wax or wane, mature or wither. It was the source of health and well-being. These two kinds of transcendent spiritual forces were presenced through the stone knappers artistic visualization and shaping in three-dimensional space.

Residing in this new three-dimensional Euclidean space, these two energies may have been viewed as a kind of otherworldly being 'in another dimension'. One was a transcendent spirit-power, perhaps called ‘the One Who Presides Over the Processes of Birth and Death and Rebirth.’ The other was a transcendent spirit-power, perhaps called ‘the One Who Gives Us Spirit Power.’ This would have been the first visualization of ‘spiritual’ or ‘supernatural’ beings—‘spiritual’ also implying ‘abstract’ since these spirits were symbolized in geometric shaped gesture-movements. Thus, the Middle Acheulians would have been the initiators of two of the most fundamental characteristics found in every Homo sapiens sapiens religion, belief in ‘supernatural beings’ and belief in a process of death and rebirth (after Spiro and Eliade). If such revelations were encoded in bifaces over 800,000 years ago, we must radically rethink the origins of religion, mind and psyche.
(For more details on this interpretation see Harrod, J. Notes on Middle Acheulian Spirituality: Stone Tool Logic Structures and Analogies of the Soul)

Photo © James Harrod or as otherwise noted

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