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33619Re: [AAT] He: hand axes

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  • Gerard Michael Burns
    Feb 1, 2006
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      ----- Original Message -----
      From: "Pauline M Ross" <pmross@...>

      > On Wed, 01 Feb 2006 09:39:12 +0000, Pauline M Ross
      > <pmross@...> wrote:
      >>>[Michael] Awesome to the max. He has nailed it. No doubt. And I usually
      >>>don't talk
      >>>like that.
      >>A cautionary comment: I haven't yet read the whole article, but I
      >>should point out that the idea of hand-axes as cores to produce flakes
      >>is one of the earliest proposed explanations for them. However, the
      >>symmetry, the carefully produced shape and the continuing production
      >>for over a million years suggests there was something more going on.
      >>I will comment further when I have read the article in full.
      > Well, having read the whole thing, it's certainly an interesting point
      > of view, although I don't find it totally convincing. Some specific
      > comments:
      > - The photograph of two handaxes with the author's hand for scale is
      > illuminating: the smaller, almost discoid one is very easy to envisage
      > as the core resulting from repeated flaking; the larger, pointed one
      > is a different kettle of fish.
      > - The author's admission that he has only examined a small number of
      > handaxes makes it less convincing.
      > - I would question his assertion that handaxes "were found at their
      > quarry (material source)", when he defines 'local' as less than 40 km.
      > That's too great a distance to claim the material is at source.

      Local and "source" are two different things. I don't recall if he stated it
      badly or not, but from other sources I know that some sources for the
      appropriate rocks are literally littered with cores, some only minimally
      exploited. As a partial confirmation, from another list, the following:
      "At Cape Hangklip (3 hours drive from Cape Town), there are Acheulian
      handaxes and MSA tools literally littering the mountain landscape in
      numbers that have to be seen to be believed. Some of the tools are at a
      distance from the rock from which they were hammered or broken from.
      Others are laying littered around the source rock/boulder. some of those
      stone tools, in particularly the Acheulian handaxes, have themselves
      been used as cores to strike off smaller tools.
      -Mikey Brass

      The signee is a PA who has seen the site.

      Michael Burns

      > - I would have been interested to see a photograph of the result of
      > the informal experiment (by Bob Patten) where removing flakes
      > systematically produced a handaxe - was it like either of the two in
      > the photograph, and if so which one? It would also have been
      > informative to repeat the experiment with other knappers.
      > - The discussion of external and inertial supports was interesting and
      > illuminating, and certainly suggests how the teardrop shape
      > originates.
      > - The soft and hard hammer logic is persuasive, but (in my view) isn't
      > particularly important. So they used a simpler technique and therefore
      > weren't as advanced cognitively as some people thought. <Shrug>
      > Marek Kohn wrote a whole book on handaxes and their meaning (called
      > "As We Know It", a stupid title, and based on the premise that
      > handaxes were a means of sexual selection). He discusses the ideas of
      > Davidson and Noble that the handaxe is a residual core: "They cite
      > Bruce Bradley and C. Garth Sampson, who discovered, when trying to
      > replicate bifaces found at the British site of Caddington, that a
      > typical Caddington handaxe form invariably appeared at some stage in
      > the process. But the local style was fairly rough and ready. Davidson
      > and Noble's argument loses persuasiveness when extended across the
      > range of handaxes. It takes a modern knapper a great deal of effort to
      > replicate the more highly worked types. There are only so many ways to
      > knap stone: if Acheulean forms were the outcome of constraints, it
      > seems likely that knappers would have discovered techniques which
      > simulated these constraints, and thus reduced the amount of conscious
      > effor required."
      > That seems like a fairly flimsy argument to me, but I would put it
      > this way: it is likely that a basic handaxe shape will emerge as part
      > of a flake-removal process in many cases, but many handaxes are just
      > too symmetrical and detailed to be merely biproducts.
      > Perhaps the answer is that simple flake removal produced an initial
      > rough handaxe shape, which was then sometimes enhanced for some other
      > purpose.
      > --
      > Pauline Ross
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