Between the Raw Material Provinces: Handaxe from the Weser Valley

There is a pattern apparent in the distribution of Lower Palaeolithic artefact assemblages in Europe: Handaxe (Acheulian) signatures are normal in the south and west but generally are rare or even absent in the North and East. Lower Paleolithic ensembles in these parts of Europe are characterized by  the Palaeolithic Microlithic Tradition’ (LPMT; e.g. Burdukiewicz and Ronen, 2003). The LPMT assemblages, generally dated to the  Middle Pleistocene, at sites such as Vertesszölös, Racineves, Schöningen and Bilzingsleben, as well as Pogrebya in eastern Moldova, are suggestive of the presence of a distinct tool-making repertoire in  this region.

During the last decades it became also evident that, in contrast to the earlier opinions, Acheulian handaxes are present in western Central Germany east of the Rhine and the German “Mittelsgebirgszone”, at least in the later phases of the Acheulian technocomplex during the late Middle Pleistocene. Furthermore, it appears that areas formerly held to be without finds, such as Hessen, today represent as central distribution areas of these tools, thanks to the efforts of some enthusiastics. Of the two thousand or so handaxe finds in Central Europe, half belong to the Paleolithic of Hessen. This is mainly because A. LUTTROPP had drawn attention topaleolithic ensembles of  the quartzite rich area of Northern Hessen. The distribution of quartzite handaxes extends into the Rhineland and the Palatinate. One of Luttropp’s assemblages that of Reutersruh, has been published in a monograph. Further finds from Hessen, especially those of Lenderscheid, still await excavation and publication. In North and East Germany around Hannover, Leipzig and Magdeburg the number of sites with Acheulian handaxes, generally made of nordic flint,  has also greatly increased after WW II, although we are still unable to exactly fix the geological situation of most of these artifacts.

This classic Acheulian Biface, made from now heavily patinated flint, was found together with several non-Levallois cores and flakes in an abandoned gravel near Hann. Münden in 1989. Acheulian handaxes from the “quartzite province” near Kassel were found some 20 km ago in the south, while flint as a raw material was commonly used 50 km in the North in the Leine valley (Alfeld, Hannover).

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