Acheulian shortcuts: Cumulative culture and the use of handaxes as cores for the production of predetermined blanks

Tamar Rosenberg-Yefet, Maayan Shemer, Ran Barkai

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Handaxes, the hallmark of the Acheulian cultural complex, were occasionally recycled at the end of the Lower Paleolithic period as cores for the production of predetermined blanks. It appears that Late Acheulian flint knappers were well acquainted with both handaxe manufacture and the application of prepared core technologies. Following previous suggestions, we propose here that Late Acheulian knappers took advantage of handaxes convexities as a “shortcut” in the reduction sequence, enabling the detachment of predetermined blanks with minimal preparatory steps. The two phases of use of late Acheulian handaxes, first as handaxes and later as cores, were documented at several late Acheulian sites in the Old World and seem to be integral to late Acheulian lithic technologies and core reduction systems. The multi-layered late Acheulian site of Revadim and the newly discovered late Acheulian site of Jaljulia (both in Israel) yielded rich lithic assemblages typical of the late Acheulian Levant. The assemblages include handaxes but are mostly dominated by flake-production technologies and flake tools. Both sites provide late Acheulian evidence for what is termed here “proto-Levallois” core technology that later, in fully fledged form, characterized the Middle Paleolithic Levallois method. Here we consider handaxes transformed into cores for the production of predetermined blanks from these two sites and discuss this phenomenon in the framework of human cultural evolution. We further propose that these two key cultural markers, the Lower Paleolithic handaxes and the Middle Paleolithic Levallois method, which are linked by means of this special late Acheulian reduction strategy, can be seen as an early archaeological example of cumulative culture.

Original languageEnglish
Article number102822
JournalJournal of Archaeological Science: Reports
Volume36
DOIs
StatePublished - Apr 2021

Keywords

  • Cumulative culture
  • Handaxes
  • Jaljulia
  • Late Acheulian
  • Levallois method
  • Revadim

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