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33628Re: [AAT] He: hand axes

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  • Pauline M Ross
    Feb 1, 2006
      On Wed, 1 Feb 2006 15:33:39 -0300, "Gerard Michael Burns"
      <gmburns@...> wrote:

      >> - 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.

      I would agree that, in common sense terms, 'local' and 'source' are
      two different things. 'Source' must surely be the exact location where
      the material is found naturally, or somewhere very close, while
      'local' is somewhat broader.

      But he explicitly conflates the two things. He says in the same
      paragraph: "... I define a lithic container as '...a core of *local*
      material, which means it is found at the *quarry*...' " and, while
      asserting that a handaxe is indeed a lithic container "... [the
      Acheulean handaxe] is a crude, early stage biface found at the
      *source* of the lithic material...".

      Maybe he expresses it badly, but the clear interpretation I derive
      from the whole paragraph is that 'local', 'quarry' and 'source' are to
      him (essentially) the same thing, and elsewhere he defines 'local' as
      40km or less. That is what I dispute (not his definition of local,
      which is a matter of personal judgment, but the jump from 'quarry' and
      'source' to 'local' and therefore up to 40 km from the actual source).

      The impression I got is that he is trying to support his thesis that
      Homo erectus simply went to a source of suitable material, produced
      the required flakes in situ, abandoned the used core (handaxe) and
      then moved on carrying the flakes.

      I don't find that very plausible. Clearly some sites fall into that
      category, but equally clearly there are other places where handaxes
      (whether as raw material or finished tools) were carried in from some
      distance away (up to 40km by his own description).

      The article is a nice piece of work, and there are some interesting
      ideas in it, but I think it is too simplistic to propose that handaxes
      in general result from one single process or motivation. Some may be
      nothing more than discarded cores, but some clearly involve more work
      than that. Some were knapped where the source material was found, some
      were not. Some were retouched after use. Some were clearly used as
      cutting tools, some were not. Some may have been thrown as hunting
      tools. As with most aspects of human evolution, the real answer may
      well turn out to be very complicated.

      My final thought is that any thesis which rests on the premise that
      "since there is no fossil hand evidence to suggest otherwise, my
      theory is intact" is in a fairly precarious position.
      --
      Pauline Ross
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