- Raw Material Hypothesis (White, 1998a): The Handaxe form is directly related to the type, size and quality of raw material; Poor raw material leads to the production of pointed handaxes; Ovates are a preferred form.
- Resharpening Hypothesis (McPherron, 1995): The handaxe formis directly related to the intensity of resharpening; Variation in form is due to different intensities of resharpening; Resharpening leads to a trajectory of forms from pointed to ovate; Resharpening is independent of raw material.
- Cultural Hypothesis (Wenban-Smith, 2004): Variation linked to social factors that transcend geographical and temporal boundaries; Variation can be examined through the identification of unique cultural forms and a preferred form.
These factors explain variability, and of course these hypotheses have already been successfully tested (for example for the British Lower Paleolithic). But these hypotheses do not explain the fact, that Millions of sophisticated hand axes from the Acheulian and Middle Paleolithic technocomplexes have been found in Africa, Asia and Europe till now. The question is, why people devoted all that labor-intensive work for a simple cutting tool? A simple, sharp flake could certainly have fulfilled nearly all the requirements for butchery (Tode 1953). The answer could be that handaxes were part of a tradition.
“A butchering tool for big game has to look like a real handaxe. In this way it was manufactured by fathers, grandfathers, and all the – mythological – ancestors. In doing so, the world could be held in an important balance. Another cultural reason is identity, because every person who is able to fulfil the traditional tasks is a good and appropriate member of the society. It is necessary for each individual to belong to his human group and it is forced to do things in the right way. These facts and not technological abilities of the early humans can explain more than one million years of the Acheulian culture. Technological changes and innovations are seen as dangerous for man and world. An imperative cultural pressure and feeling of safety were in balance throughout longest period of human’s being” (Fiedler 2002a).
I am proud, that some of my handaxe- photos are part of an interesting article by Sophie A. de Beaune. (Gradhiva 2013/1 [n° 17]) She argues:
“What is the nature of the relationship between aesthetics and function in prehistorical tools ? This article revisits Leroi-Gourhan’s notion of “ functional aesthetics ” via the analysis of bifaces – artefacts with two perpendicular planes of symmetry. I argue that the skilled act that lies behind the creation of the tool possesses its own form of beauty, one which is integral to the aesthetic of the tool itself.