Micoquian Bifaces

micoquian handaxe aggsbach

This is a Micoquian Handaxe from the famous El Beyyed-Tazazmout site in northern Mauretania, where it was collected during 1963.

Micoquien Handaxes can be symmetric or slightly asymmetric. They have a massive, often only coarsely or unworked base, slightly of pronounced concave outlines and an elaborated tip. At La Micoque the handaxes often follow a trifacial concept. The analysis of techno-functional units (TFU) in the identification of the conceptual zones defining the volumetric organization of the piece from the beginning of its fabrication at La Micoque showed that: “Two concepts are present in La Micoque.  The first one leads to the production of handaxes sensu strictu with a roughly symmetrical organization along the length axis. Two active TFU with similar characteristics form the point and the top of the piece. They can cover the total length of the long sides up to the basis. The basis carries usually, but not obligatory, a passive TFU. Additive TFU can be placed between the top and the basis. They are usually organized symmetrically and can be active or passive. A piece with “handaxe concept” can therefore be hold and used on several ways and all TFU can be at least potentially active. The second concept produces bifacial knives, characterized by the asymmetrical organization of their TFUs along the length axis. The main active TFU is localized on one of the long edges, opposed to a back that is always passive”  (Rosendahl 2004).

Micoquian Handaxes appeared and disappeared from the Archaeological record at several times. They are found in the context of the Nubian Acheulian, at Tabun (Israel) where they may be 400 k.a. years old, at La Micoque (300 k.a.?), during late OIS5 in N-France and during the Middle European KMG of the last Glacial. They are certainly not useful as an exact chronological marker and should be viewed independently from the Middle European Keilmessergruppen (KMG). Only a limited number of KMG-sites show Micoquian handaxes (Bockstein, Zwolen, Salzgitter) which are more common in the late Acheulean of Northern France! The “Micoquian” Handaxes at Bocksteinschmiede (OIS 5? / OIS3?) and La Micoque seem to be  the product of a convergent technical evolution and neither interrelated by tradition nor by chronology. Richter (Köln) recently published a sophisticated analysis about the volumetric concepts of Acheulian and Micoquian handaxes, arguing for a conscious perception of a geometrical problem by their makers.

Some “Micoquian” Handaxes; Left: Tabun (Garrod and Bate 1937) ; Right: Nubia (Guichard and Guichard 1965)

micoque tabun nubia aggsbach

Rosendahl’ s Dissertation:


Richter’s Discussion:



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