Postgraduate Research Archaeology Symposium

Benjamin Brown (2016)

Keywords: Handaxes, Photogrammetry, Symmetry, 3D Modelling, Palaeolithic


Handaxes are the dominant tool type associated with the Lower Palaeolithic and Acheulean, receiving a considerable amount of focus within the associated literature. However, one element of handaxes that has received comparably less attention to others, is their edge morphologies. This is partly due to a dominant use of planform shape to test theories and generate data, along with physical limitations when trying to accurately quantify and collect data from handaxe edges. As a consequence, they are often absent or under-used in some of the key debates surrounding handaxes.

One such debate is that of the contested presence of symmetry in handaxes, a topic which has a long history of dispute and deliberation. The core principle for this presence has often been based on planform symmetry, with the outline shapes of handaxes argued to hold symmetrical qualities. This debate, although still ongoing, has largely continued unchanged in this trajectory, with several issues arising from the current approaches.

To provide new impetus to this debate, an innovative new approach is proposed, drawing on the relatively under used handaxe edge morphologies. A new photogrammetric methodology is presented, using a more in-depth and detailed process to build highly accurate 3D models of handaxes. These models allow for new forms of analytical testing to be undertaken, unrestricted by the physical constraints often imposed by the tools themselves. Through this, the importance of what edge morphologies can contribute to wider debates will be highlighted, particularly with regards to the nature of symmetry in handaxes.