Lithic Technology ISSN: 0197-7261 (Print) 2051-6185 (Online) Journal homepage: http://www.tandfonline.com/loi/ylit20 The Acheulean Handaxe: A Maintainable Multifunctional Tool Milla Y. Ohel To cite this article: Milla Y. Ohel (1987) The Acheulean Handaxe: A Maintainable Multifunctional Tool, Lithic Technology, 16:2-3, 54-55, DOI: 10.1080/01977261.1987.11720884 To link to this article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/01977261.1987.11720884 Published online: 01 Apr 2016. Submit your article to this journal View related articles Citing articles: 8 View citing articles Full Terms & Conditions of access and use can be found at http://www.tandfonline.com/action/journalInformation?journalCode=ylit20 Download by: [UNSW Library] Date: 27 October 2017, At: 08:24 LITHIC TECHNOLOGY 54 The Acheulean Handaxe: A Maintainable Multifunctional Tool Milia Y. Ohel Department of Sociology and Anthropology. University of Haifa, Haifa 31999, Israel6 I 87 Abstract Downloaded by [UNSW Library] at 08:24 27 October 2017 The Acheulean Handaxe has been somewhat enigmatic in prehistoric research. This paper reviews previous ideas and makes the case that the Acheulean Handaxe was a maintainable, multifunctional tool. The handaxe (or biface) is widely considered as the most prominent and most representative of the Acheulean industrial complex. Yet the function of handaxes has been the focus of varying views for many years (see Kleindienst and Keller 1976 for a review). Many former and some more recent authorities (e.g., Mortillet 1883: Tylor 1894; Osborn 1915; Macalister 1921; Ponansky 1959; Oakley 1964; Bordaz 1970) contended that the Acheulean handaxe was an all-purpose tool. Others characterized it as a war weapon (e.g., Frere 1797; Evans 1859-both cited in Daniel1967). Still others (e.g., Clark and Haynes 1970; Cole and Kleindienst 1974) concluded that the handaxe was not related to butchering practices (but cf. Oakley 1964: 22; Keeley 1980: 82, 160; Wymer 1982: 126). Cole and Kleindienst (1974: 352, 354), mentioning also former students, thought that whereas one morphological form can hardly be called "all-purpose tool, "various forms of handaxes may have had overlapping functional spheres. And, more than just a few researchers (e.g., Vayson de Pradence 1920; Balout 1967; Bordes 1968) have avoided discussing any functional aspects of handaxes. Kleindienst and Keller (1976) forwarded a rather interesting idea of handaxes having had been used as anvils stuck in the ground and fastened there by the feet while modifying other tools upon them. However, at the end of their discussion (p. 184) they concluded "that at present we do not know how, or for what, handaxes and cleavers were used". Roe (1981:74) regarded the issue as "one of the ~ore basic problems," relating that microwear analysis (by his student, Larry Keeley) was at that time in a progressive stage. Keeley (1980) investigated four handaxe replicas and three true Acheulean handaxes from Britain which met his criteria. The former "provided to be perfectly adequate tools for accomplishing the various tasks (digging, cutting meat, scraping and cutting fat from a hide, and cutting through or breaking bone joints)" (p.82). Of the latter, two handaxes from Hoxne were used for meat cutting and butchering, and the third from the Golf Course at Clactonon-Sea for wood polishing. On the basis of the above and numerous experiments and analyses of other tools, Keeley (1980) drew the following conclusions: " ...._hand axes as a. class ... were not made for any particular or exclusive function... but nevertheless were made to fulfill some important but more general purpose" (p. 160; emphasis there). And again, " ... the advantage of the hand axe lies not in its suitability for (Vol. 16, Nos. 2-3, 1987) any one particular task, but in its usefulness for any number of tasks" (p. 161; approximately the same on p. 169). For the purpose of this note, the notion that follows is of importance: " .. .it seems reasonable to propose as a hypothesis that hand axes ... were implements. ~ade to be taken on hunting and gathering expedibons away from the home base, while in the main, flake tools provided the cutting edges 'at home"' (p. 161; emphasis added). ~leed _(1986:~37) suggested "that guiding principles of ~ngmeenng des1gn offer potentially useful insights," and mtroduced some concepts and terms that seemed quite relev~t to our discussion here. First, for the matter of func~1o~: "Systems that ~e designed to perform a range of applications are also optionally designed to be maintainable ... (e.g., an arrow that might be used on large game birds, or fish)'' (p. 741). Second, for the matter of find~ loc~tion: " ... hunters going after game that is continually available but on an unpredictable schedule would optimally be equipped with maintainable weapons"(p. 741). I would like to support both Keeley (1980) and Bleed's (1986~ suggestions by adding an observation of my own. Studymg recently the Acheulean of the Yiron (0hel1986) and Baram (Ohel 1987) Plateaux in the Upper Galilee of Israel, I hav~ repeatedly noticed the following phenomenon. While handaxes were sometimes recovered in ~cupation sites many were found wide-ranging outside ~1tes, yet absolutely within the presumed borders of foragmg grounds. The presence of a handaxe (or many handaxes) was more revealing especially at places where no othe~ artifact was found. In most, if not all cases, such off-s1te handaxes were recovered at locations where no washdowns~ de~v~tio~s, rollings, or other natural agencies affected therr distnbution. I became convinced that one or mor handaxes were carried by the Acheulean huntergatherers on their forays. This spatial spread of off-site handaxes adds, I believe, further strength to the above notions. The Acheulean handaxe was probably a maintainable, multifunctional tool carried_by the foragers, such as the bow, quiver, and spear earned by the !Kung San, or the bow, arrow, and quiver used by_ th_e Y~omamo. It might have served some purposes Within a s1te (even that suggested by Kleindienst and Keller? 1976), but there, various other tools mostly functi~~-specific, w~re at hand, whereas the ~daxes' major utility was outs1de the residential quarters. This does not mean that every single, stray handaxe found ~ywhere must be directly tied to the system. My sugg~s~on here can be applicable only after the diverse assocmtive or contextual on-site/off-site aspects are understood. When these latter are established the sometimes "strange" locations where handaxes are soiely encountered can be reasonably explained. References Cited Balout, L. 1967 "Procedes d'analyse et questions de terminolgie dans I'etude des ~nse~bles industriels du Paleolithique infeneur en Afrique du Nord," in Background to the Evolution in Africa. 55 (Ohel) Acheulean Handaxe Edited by W.W. Bishop and J.D. Clark, pp. 701-35. Chicago:University Press. Bleed, P. 1986 The optimal design of hunting weapons: maintainability or reliability. American Antiquity 51:737-47. Bordaz, J. 1970 Tools of the Old and New Stone Age. Garden City: Natural History Press. Downloaded by [UNSW Library] at 08:24 27 October 2017 Bordes, F. 1968 The Old Stone Age. London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson. Clark, J.D. and V. Haynes. 1970 An elephant butchery site at Mwanganda's Village, Karonga, Malawi, and its relevance for Palaeolithic archaeology. World Archaeology 1:390-411. Cole, G.H. and M.R. 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