Accepted paper:

The world's earliest handaxes and subsequent development: an overview of the Konso evidence, Ethiopia


Gen Suwa (The University of Tokyo)

Paper short abstract:

We provide an overview of the early Acheulean assemblages from Konso, Ethiopia. The Konso evidence suggests emergence of the Acheulean before ~1.75 Ma, gradual refinement to ~1.0 Ma, and a significant technological advance resulting in well-trimmed and thin handaxes by ~0.85 Ma. Co-authors: Yonas Beyene (A.R.C.C. Awassa, Ethiopia), and Berhane Asfaw (Rift Valley Research Service, Ethiopia).

Paper long abstract:

Acheulean tools are known from large stone tools called "handaxes", "cleavers", and "picks", and are often considered the first tools to be purposely shaped into preconceived form. Many think that handaxes were used in butchering and skinning animal carcasses, and, in some instances, represent advanced cognition and symbolic behavior. The Acheulean has been considered a long-lasting monotonic lithic tradition that spanned ~1.5 Ma to ~0.3 Ma or younger, from Africa to southern Asia, indicating remarkable behavioral conservatism through time and space. Here, based on evidence from Konso, Ethiopia, spanning ~1.75 Ma to 0.85 Ma, we provide a somewhat different perspective of the Acheulean. The Konso evidence indicates that both heavy-duty picks and handaxes were important components throughout the early Acheulean, probably representing different functions. The handaxes become better shaped through time, implying gradual refinement of both shape and function, but they remain thick with sinuous edges until at least ~1.0 Ma. However, by ~0.85 Ma, well-trimmed and thin handaxes started to be made, suggesting a significant advance in tool function, workmanship, and perhaps cognition. Thus, there appears to have been two important periods of innovation represented in the Acheulean sequence, one at ~1.75 Ma when both Acheulean tools and Homo erectus were emerging, and another at 1.0 Ma to ~0.8 Ma, preceding or broadly paralleling the transition of Homo erectus to a more advanced species of Homo.

panel P133
Papers from members of the Anthropological Society of Nippon (ASN panel) (CLOSED)