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Reassessing the production of handaxes versus flakes from a functional perspective

Key, Alastair J. M., Lycett, Stephen J. (2015) Reassessing the production of handaxes versus flakes from a functional perspective. Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences, . pp. 1-17. ISSN 1866-9557. E-ISSN 1866-9565. (doi:10.1007/s12520-015-0300-1) (The full text of this publication is not currently available from this repository. You may be able to access a copy if URLs are provided)

The full text of this publication is not currently available from this repository. You may be able to access a copy if URLs are provided. (Contact us about this Publication)
Official URL
http://www.dx.doi.org/10.1007/s12520-015-0300-1

Abstract

Bifacially flaked stone tools, traditionally referred to as “handaxes” were produced by Pleistocene hominins for over one million years over three different continents. This spatial and temporal prevalence raises questions about the factors that may have motivated their use as supplements to more simple flake tools. Hence, understanding the comparative functional performance capabilities of flakes and handaxes is essential to understanding factors that may have motivated the repeated production of handaxes during the Pleistocene. Here, we examine this question using a larger scale experimental approach than has previously been undertaken. We statistically assessed the comparative functional efficiencies of basic flake cutting tools and handaxes when undertaking a series of distinct cutting tasks. Furthermore, for the first time, we examined the functional capabilities of flake tools that are of equal size and mass to handaxes. Our results identify that the specific material context in which these tools are used is key to their relative functional efficiencies, with basic flake cutting tools being significantly more efficient than handaxes when undertaking relatively small, precise cutting tasks. Alternatively, we identify that handaxes are significantly more efficient than basic flake cutting tools when tasked with cutting relatively large, resistant portions of material. Thus, we conclude the adoption and widespread production of handaxes by Pleistocene hominins was motivated, at least in part, by requirements to undertake this specific type of task, rather than them being inherently superior to flakes in all cutting tasks. Indeed, interestingly, the comparative functional efficiencies of handaxes and flakes of equal size are far less pronounced than expected, with a number of tasks displaying no significant efficiency differences. Subsequently, we stress that a number of other hypothesized advantages of handaxes may have also been key to their widespread production and use by Pleistocene hominins.

Item Type: Article
DOI/Identification number: 10.1007/s12520-015-0300-1
Uncontrolled keywords: Functional performance Efficiency Acheulean Flake tools Cutting
Subjects: G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GN Anthropology
Divisions: Faculties > Social Sciences > School of Anthropology and Conservation > Biological Anthropology
Depositing User: Alastair Key
Date Deposited: 03 Nov 2015 10:58 UTC
Last Modified: 29 May 2019 16:15 UTC
Resource URI: https://kar.kent.ac.uk/id/eprint/51403 (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)
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