The Europe distribution of cleavers coincides only partly with that of Acheulian Handaxes during the Acheulian. They are most abundant in regions in which the raw material occurs in the form of large quartzite cobbles that do not need extensive decortication and shaping prior to the removal of large flakes, as in the Spanish Meseta and the Garonne and Tarn valleys of southwestern France. Elsewhere (northern France, England, Italy), cleavers also occur in different raw materials (flint or limestone) but are rather rare.
More than 100 Paleolithic sites that have been discovered in the alluvial deposits of the rivers Creuse, Cher, and Loire during the last 150 years (some examples:http://www.aggsbach.de/2011/01/creuse/) . Anyhow, absolute dates about the archaeological deposits were not available until very recently. Systematic dating of river deposits, mainly by Electron Spin Resonance (ESR) resulted in the establishment of a chronological framework for the evolution of these rivers during the Lower and Middle Pleistocene (1.7 Ma and 130 k.a.).
Evidence for Early Palaeolithic industries with an in situ context indicates that Hominins were present in the center of France around 1.1 Ma (A Pont-de-Lavaud in the Creuse Valley, Lunery in the Cher Valley and Saint-Hilaire-la-Gravelle in the Loire Valley). At Lunery, for example, ca. 500 pieces have been collected and can be related to a human action.
At these early sites, Hominids are present in deposits that relate to the beginning and end of cold Periods. This Evidence and data from other early Paleolithic European sites now clearly indicate that Hominids reached the latitude of 45 N and indeed further north towards eastern England during warm and temperate episodes.
After a gap of several 100 k.a. ensembles with handaxes appear in the Middle Loire Basin in the interval between 700 and 600 k.a., and then continuously from 400 k.a. Rich ensembles within an intact stratigraphy were detected at the the “La Noira” site in the middle Cher valley. Such large cleavers as the one displayed here are approximately 500 k.a. old.
Dates of 500-400 k.a. are in good concordance with those of other sites in France (Somme Valley), Spain (Atapuerca-Galeria, Ambrona), Italy (Visogliano, Castel di Guido) and England (Boxgrove, Hoxne).
The chronological gap between the two lithic assemblages (the early core and flake technology and the later Acheulian) in central France could imply the existence of two phases of settlement within this region. While the 500 k.a. boundary for a broad colonisation of Europa still holds true, it is now obvious that there must have been earlier migrations into the southern parts of Europe already during the early middle Pleistocene.