Skip to main content

Handaxe Shape Variation in a Relative Context

Key, Alastair J. M. (2019) Handaxe Shape Variation in a Relative Context. Comptes Rendus Palevol, 18 (5). pp. 555-567. ISSN 1631-0683. (doi:10.1016/j.crpv.2019.04.008) (Access to this publication is currently restricted. You may be able to access a copy if URLs are provided)

PDF - Author's Accepted Manuscript
Restricted to Repository staff only until 20 August 2020.

Creative Commons Licence
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.
Contact us about this Publication
Official URL


The nature, extent and causes of shape variation within and between Acheulean handaxe assemblages represent one of the most heavily theorised aspects of Lower Palaeolithic archaeology. To date, however, handaxe shape variation has only ever been studied within an artefact-based comparative context. Here, the 2D and 3D shape of 698 Acheulean handaxes, selected from ten assemblages, is contextualised within a theoretically possible range of forms defined by two intentionally highly diverse modern replica biface sets. Results demonstrate that handaxe artefacts are highly diverse in their 2D plan-view shape, displaying near complete overlap with the shape space of the intentionally diverse replica tools, along with similar levels of variation. The 3D shape of handaxe artefacts, however, displays much stronger form limitations, occupying under 50% of the shape space created by the replica bifaces. Principally, flat and more ‘tabular’ handaxe forms that display low thickness to width ratios were revealed as absent from the archaeological record. It is argued that while there is considerable diversity and variability in the shape of Acheulean handaxe artefacts, their form is nonetheless restricted by strong material volume and ‘refinement’ limits.

Item Type: Article
DOI/Identification number: 10.1016/j.crpv.2019.04.008
Subjects: C Auxiliary Sciences of History > CC Archaeology
Divisions: Faculties > Social Sciences > School of Anthropology and Conservation > Biological Anthropology
Depositing User: Alastair Key
Date Deposited: 21 Aug 2019 00:44 UTC
Last Modified: 19 Feb 2020 04:11 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)
Key, Alastair J. M.:
  • Depositors only (login required):


Downloads per month over past year