Synchronisation of Handaxe shapes on a global scale?

allonne aggsbach

This is a “Biface de type micoquien” typologically in transition to a  “Biface lageniforme” according to Bordes` typology,  made by a typical trifacial concept of  façonnage, found during the early 20th century in the important Briqueterie d’Allonne (Oise) in Northern France (http://www.aggsbach.de/2013/06/before-combe-grenal-the-early-scientific-work-of-f-bordes-and-the-allonne-brickyards/).

Micoquian Handaxes can be symmetric or slightly asymmetric. They have a massive, often only coarsely or unworked base, slightly pronounced concave outlines and an elaborated tip. At La Micoque the handaxes often follow a trifacial concept.  (http://www.aggsbach.de/2013/07/micoquian-bifaces/).

In France, such handaxes are known from the upper strata at La Micoque (Dordogne; maybe 250-300 k.a. old) and from the upper Acheulian in the loess belt of Northern France (MIS 8/7). Although some Micoquian handaxe are known from the “Keilmesser” groups, they are not an integral part of the “Middle European Micoquian”  sensu strictu.

The  Acheulian has been dated to the first part of the Middle Pleistocene in western Europe (mainly MIS 16 to 9; 600-300 k.a.), with some ensembles dating as late as MIS 8/7 ( 300-200 k.a.); (http://www.aggsbach.de/2014/06/handaxe-from-montieres-and-the-diversification-of-the-paleolithic-in-n-france-during-mis-8/). In Western Europe more structured flaking (débitage) techniques such as the Levallois concept emerge only after MIS 9/8. The famous “Atelier Commont” in Amiens (early OIS8) can be described as a non-Levallois Middle Paleolithic industry with some handaxes, while at other sites the Levallois technique was more abundant. 

The term “Acheulian” was originally coined by G. de Mortillet (1872) to describe the industries from the Middle Terrace of the Somme Valley in northern France. Today the term denotes a large variety of tools, occurring over 1.7 million years on several continents. The link between the numerous occurrences of the Acheulian is solely the handaxe, an entity which is defined technologically and by a façonnage chaîne opératoire. There are certain doubts if the handaxes of Europe were introduced by the humans that entered Europe “Out of Africa” during the Late Early Pleistocene. The handaxe industries of Europe could be an independent innovation.

The same could be suggested for the “Micoquian” shape of handaxes, although such artifacts are certainly a “late” phenomenon during the Acheulian on a global scale. In the Levant, Micoquian bifaces appeared in the Archeological record during the late local Acheulian, which disappeared at about 400 k.a. BP and during the Yabroudian (400-200 k.a.). The Nubian Micoquian bifaces seem to be within this time span. Other African Micoquian handaxes seem to be dated to the middle part of the Middle Pleistocene.

Earlier research concluded that there was a continent wide interdependency of certain handaxe shapes between Europe, South East Asia and Africa. Regarding the important geographical and geochronological gaps and the diversified technological components of “Micoquian”  handaxes this seems to be highly questionable.

Black Basalt Handaxe

Large Acheulian Handaxe from S-Italy

Handaxe from the “Mousterien Chaud” at Montières and the diversification of the Paleolithic in N-France during MIS 8

Large Cutting Tools at Isimila

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