Populations using Acheulean ensembles occupied Europe with a significant time lag compared to Africa. They could have entered Europe by the Levantine corridor, the strait of Gibraltar or via the Bab-al-Mandab.
In East-Africa first handaxes already appeared 1, 5 Ma. Turning to the Atlantic façade, to Sidi Abderrahmane, near Casablanca in Maroc, the oldest lithic assemblages are found in Late Lower Pleistocene deposits, circa 1 Ma, in unit L of Thomas Quarry 1, and consist of Acheulean artifacts made from quartzite and flint.
In the Levant, the earliest Acheulean is dated to 1.4 Ma at Ubediya (3 km southwest of the Sea of Galilee) and Gesher Benot-Ya’aqov at 0.78 Ma (OIS 19).
The Acheulian artifact assemblage of Ubediya is very similar to the one in Upper Bed II of Olduvai Gorge (~1.4 Ma). More than 60 archeological horizons were excavated here, relating to different sedimentation sequences, which represented numerous returns to the same location.
The Gesher Benot-Ya’aqov (GBY)Archaeological record is quite unique compared to contemporary sites in Eurasia ( Gran Dolina TD6), which may be the result of favorable preservation conditions. GBY shows the development of complex human cognitive abilities (organization of space, permanent fire, and sophisticated stone tools).
In Europe, Handaxes become more common only during and after OIS 13. Anyhow, some sites in South Europe may considerable older: Notarchirico [Venosa, Basilicata]: 0, 6 Ma and in Solana de Zamborino (Granada) and Cueva Negra (Murcia) at 0,9 Ma.
Acheulean is known all along the middle and lower Guadalquivir basin along the main river and several of its tributaries. The geostratigraphic sequence of the Guadalquivir depression is composed of 14 terraces, dated recently by U/Th and paleomagnetic determinations. Acheulian remains are especially concentrated on the middle terraces, dated not earlier than MIS 11. The most common raw material is quartzite and the local Acheulean is characterized by the presence of bifaces, often showing a trihedral concept, cleavers and tools made from medium and large flakes. The artifact shown here may look “archaic”, but is younger than the sophisticated tools from Boxgrove (OIS13).
Overall there are striking similarities between the Acheulean of North Africa and the Iberian Peninsula:
- Broad similarities in lithic technology
- presence of cleavers
- the use of non-flint rocks, such as quartzite, as raw material for bifaces
Recently Gonen Sharon draw attention to a special technique, called entame core method in the chaine operatoire of biface production in Northern Africa and Spain. He notes that: “It is suggested that the frequent use of the entame core method common to both North Africa and the Iberian Peninsula indicates similarity in lithic tradition during the Acheulean. This may support the view of North African origin for the Iberian Acheulean during the Middle Pleistocene” (Afr Archaeol Rev 2011 in print)