Hand Axe and Stone Tool

Hand Axe and Stone Tool

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Basic Stone Tools An Overview for College Students

This page is intended to serve as a quick introduction to several kinds of Paleolithic stone tools referred to by prehistoric archaeologists. This page is devoted to stone points and blades, usually associated with hunting activities. Other kinds of stone tools include various hammers and grinding basins, not described here.

(Picture sources for this page are numbered in captions visible by holding your mouse over each picture and are expanded at the foot of the page.)

Primitive Humans Conquered Sea, Surprising Finds Suggest

Prehistoric axes found on a Greek island suggest that seafaring existed in the Mediterranean more than a hundred thousand years earlier than thought.

It wasn't supposed to happen like this.

Two years ago a team of U.S. and Greek archaeologists were combing a gorge on the island of Crete (map) in Greece, hoping to find tiny stone tools employed by seafaring people who had plied nearby waters some 11,000 years ago.

Instead, in the midst of the search, Providence College archaeologist Thomas Strasser and his team came across a whopping surprise—a sturdy 5-inch-long (13-centimeter-long) hand ax.

Knapped from a cobble of local quartz stone, the rough-looking tool resembled hand axes discovered in Africa and mainland Europe and used by human ancestors until about 175,000 years ago. This stone tool technology, which could have been useful for smashing bones and cutting flesh, had been relatively static for over a million years.

Crete has been surrounded by vast stretches of sea for some five million years. The discovery of the hand ax suggests that people besides technologically modern humans—possibly Homo heidelbergensis—island-hopped across the Mediterranean tens of thousands of millennia earlier than expected.

Many researchers have hypothesized that the early humans of this time period were not capable of devising boats or navigating across open water. But the new discoveries hint that these human ancestors were capable of much more sophisticated behavior than their relatively simple stone tools would suggest.

"I was flabbergasted," said Boston University archaeologist and stone-tool expert Curtis Runnels. "The idea of finding tools from this very early time period on Crete was about as believable as finding an iPod in King Tut's tomb."

Even so, as researchers from the Directorate of Paleoanthropology and Speleology of South Greece and four U.S. universities combed the island, evidence of this unlikely journey kept mounting.

The team found more than 30 hand axes, as well as other stone tools of similar vintage, embedded into geological deposits at nine different locations on the southwestern coast of Crete near the town of Plakias. Some artifacts had possibly eroded out from caves in the sea cliffs, becoming incorporated into ancient beach deposits. Over time, geological processes lifted these ancient beaches up and away from the shore, forming natural terraces.

The team’s geologists dated the youngest of the terraces associated with the hand axes to at least 45,000 years ago using radiocarbon dating, and they estimated the oldest terrace with stone tools to be at least 130,000 years ago.

Early Humans "Not Lost at Sea"?

The dating of the sites has convinced project leader Strasser that early humans were voyaging across the Mediterranean tens of millennia earlier than believed.

"These early people were intentional seafarers," he emphasized, "not individuals lost at sea."

How long was their sea journey? It depends when they traveled and where they came from.

Maps of the coastal shelves suggest that even when the Mediterranean reached its lowest known point, plummeting some 440 feet (144 meters) below current sea level, people leaving from Turkey or Greece would have had to make three separate water crossings ranging from 12 to 24 miles (19 to 39 kilometers) each to reach Crete. If, on the other hand, the seafarers departed from Africa, they would have voyaged over 125 miles (200 kilometers) of open water.

"The fact that we have several hundred stone tools in nine different locations suggests that a large enough number of people came in order to sustain the populations and leave a visible archaeological trace," Runnels said. "That means they didn't just raft over once."

The new finds, which will be published in June in Hesperia: The Journal of the American School of Classical Studies at Athens, could rock many archaeological boats.

Researchers have long theorized, for example, that ancient human migrants from Africa—such as Homo erectus and Homo heidelbergensis—departed the continent on foot, trekking eastward through the Sinai Peninsula and then across the Middle East. (See "Massive Genetic Study Supports 'Out of Africa' Theory.")

But the finds on Crete open an entirely new possibility. Although archaeologists had found hints of early humans on Crete, these new discoveries, says Strasser, "are the first geologically datable finds. It seems likely that future research will support this initial discovery."

Moreover, the discovery could spark a host of other scientific debates.

If ancient humans were crossing the Mediterranean, Runnels said, then they certainly could have crossed other water barriers, such as the Red Sea or the Gulf of Aden. "And that means that the assumptions that we have had—that the peopling of Eurasia was done by early hominins moving overland through the Near East, into India and down—will have to be revisited." Hominins, or hominids, are members of humankind's ancestral lineage.

Not surprisingly, the new research in Crete is already stirring debate.

Geoff Bailey, an archaeologist at York University in England and an expert on ancient coastal migrations, calls the idea of such ancient sea crossings "plausible." But he thinks the team needs to find and conduct excavations at sites where ancient humans were actually making and using the stone tools.

"At the moment" Bailey said, "the dating is very vague."

Katerina Harvati, a paleoanthropologist who has worked extensively in Greece, accepts the team's identification of the quartz artifacts as hand axes, but she wants to see other lines of evidence for the dates.

"The team has made a very good start," said Harvati, of the University of Tübingen. "But I think there needs to be a lot more work on dating the sites to really securely place the artifacts into a chronological context."

More Evidence of Ancient Seafaring

At present, the earliest widely accepted evidence of ancient seafaring comes from Australia.

To reach the southern continent from the Southeast Asian mainland some 50,000 years ago, modern humans had to cross a 600-mile-long (970-kilometer-long) band of islands and at least ten ocean straits. The largest of these straits spanned 44 miles (71 kilometers) of open water—a gap that no large-bodied animal had ever managed to cross before Homo sapiens. To undertake such a lengthy crossing, human seafarers likely lashed together bamboo to make a simple watercraft.

Other pieces of evidence, however, suggest that seafaring could go back much deeper in time.

The discovery of human remains and stone tools in Spain dating to over a million years ago may indicate that some ancient hominin navigated the hazardous Straits of Gibraltar from Morocco, a journey of less than 12 miles (19 kilometers).

Moreover, Michael Morwood, an archaeologist at the University of New England in Armidale, Australia, has long proposed that Homo erectus voyaged from the Indonesian island of Bali to nearby Flores, where excavations have revealed 700,000- to 800,000-year-old stone tools.

If additional work confirms that the earliest stone tools on Crete date to more than 130,000 years ago, archaeologists may want to take a closer look at these hypotheses.

One solid bet is that archaeologists will be giving more thought in years to come to the question of why early humans chose to venture out on the sea in the first place.

In the case of Crete, said Strasser's team member Eleni Panagopoulou, an archaeologist at the Directorate of Paleoanthropology and Speleology of South Greece, seafarers may have craved new territory or new marine resources such as shellfish beds.

At the heart of it all, though, Panagopoulou suspects, was something fundamental to all human beings: "I think they were mainly motivated by curiosity," she said, "and the desire for exploration."


Hand axes were no doubt a multi-purpose tool. Research on their cutting edges has shown that, in many cases, they were used for butchering meat. This would include extracting bone marrow (which would explain the pointed end) and general hacking through bone, muscle and tendons. Experiments at Boxgrove quarry would appear to back this up. We know for sure that Neanderthals, at least, were hunters of large mammals such as mammoths, and that may be true of other hand axe cultures. The need for such a heavy tool is thus easily understood. Wielding a hand axe requires considerable strength, but Neanderthals were stronger than us in their upper bodies.

Studies in the 1990s at Boxgrove, in which a butcher attempted to cut up a carcass with a hand axe, showed that the hand axe was perfect for getting at the bone marrow, which is high in protein and vitamins and thus was highly prized as a food source. Δ] Ε]

A Primer on the Ax: History, Types, and Anatomy

If you were going to be stranded somewhere in the wild or were facing an impending apocalypse, and could only outfit yourself with one implement, you would be wise to choose the axe. Part tool, part weapon, it’s no mystery as to why men have felt a primal attraction towards axes for thousands of years. It’s an allure that manifests itself beginning at a young age.

When I was three years old I remember watching Disney’s Paul Bunyan and being completely captivated by the giant lumberjack and his mighty ax that could fell entire forests in one swing. Inspired by this gigantic lumberjack, I immediately grabbed the most ax-like thing in the living room — the fireplace shovel — and headed outside to chop down the most forest-like thing in my backyard — my mom’s newly planted tulips. I rested my elbow on the knob of my mighty fireplace shovel-ax and surveyed my work with satisfaction, just like old Paul Bunyan did in the cartoon. I had done such a good job that the sight even brought my mother to tears. For some reason, though, she gave me a spanking and sent me to my room.

My love affair with the ax continued throughout my boyhood. When I was a Boy Scout I did whatever I could to get my hands on an ax so I could fell or split wood. Whenever I did service projects that involved cleaning up yards or property, you bet there was an ax in my hand. Today, I love to split wood when I get a chance and enjoy bucking logs with my trusty American felling ax.

While I’ve certainly enjoyed using axes for most of my life, I’ve never really known much about them except for what I picked up while earning my Totin’ Chip in Boy Scouts. So I decided to learn all I could and put together a series on this quintessential tool and symbol of masculinity. Today we’ll offer an overview on the history of the ax and its construction. Then we’ll cover how to choose an ax for yourself and how to safely and effectively use it to chop wood.

A Brief History of the Ax

The ax is one of humanity’s oldest tools, and arguably its greatest and most versatile. Archaeologists estimate that our early ancestors were using simple chipped stone wedges as hand axes over 1.5 million years ago. Around 6,000 BC, Mesolithic humans started fastening their stone wedges to a handle — often made from antler or bone — with rawhide lashings. Adding a lever increased the cutting power of the early ax and turned it into a jack-of-all-trades tool. Our human ancestors used these implements to dig up roots, cut wood, butcher animals, and even kill each other in battles.

By 4,000 BC, humans were grinding edges on their stones for more efficient cutting. In the late Neolithic era, the first metal ax heads were hewn from copper or copper mixed with arsenic. While these copper heads were flatter than the stone variety, they were still fastened, or hafted, to the handle with birch tar and leather lashings.

As advances in metallurgy were made, the ax continued to evolve. While axes have always doubled as both weapon and tool, in the Bronze Age, blacksmiths began creating versions especially for war. For example, double-bitted (meaning it has blades on both sides of the head) battle-axes have been found in Crete that date back to 2,000 BC, and the Egyptians wielded a unique battlefield weapon called the Epsilon Ax. One of the more significant and field-expedient changes made to the ax’s design during this time was how the head was hafted to the handle. Artisans and blacksmiths designed a metal ax head that could be inserted snugly into the handle, rather than tied on, thus creating a stronger, more secure weapon.

While different trades developed different axes for their various needs, and warriors refined their weapons for better lethality, the design of woodcutting axes hit a slump from about medieval times until the late Renaissance. During this period, Europeans had the “trade ax” that they used for pretty much anything and everything — felling trees, splitting wood, butchering animals, etc. But the trade ax wasn’t very efficient in the woodcutting department. It would take Europeans migrating to North America for the ax to make another leap forward.

The first European settlers in America needed land for farming. Standing in the way of their crops, however, were dense forests that covered the virgin landscape. The trade ax that settlers had brought with them just wasn’t going to cut it (see what I did there?), so these early pioneers started experimenting with and modifying its head to create a more efficient felling tool. Throughout the 18th and 19th centuries, different locations in America began producing various types of heads for felling axes. While the designs differed from state to state (at one point in the 19th century there were more than 300 different ax head patterns being sold), what they all had in common was that they were shorter and broader than their European progenitors. This stouter head was much more efficient for felling trees and became characteristic of what came to be known as the American ax — a tool that now serves as the Platonic ideal of axes the world over.

With this new ax head design, farmers and pioneers were able to clear entire forests in a (relatively) short amount of time. In areas that required substantial tree felling, the double-bitted ax rose in popularity. As noted above, double-bitted battle-axes had been around since 2,000 BC, but it wasn’t until the 19th century in Pennsylvania that the tool was used as a felling device. Having two cutting edges on a single ax head made for much more productive woodsmen. While some kept both edges sharp and began the day cutting with one edge and then flipping to the other once the first dulled, others used the two bits for different purposes. One edge was made sharp for felling, while the other was kept blunt and rounded for limbing.

Farmers were reluctant to adopt the double-bitted ax, though, primarily out of safety concerns. Because its head had cutting edges on both ends, the chances of injuring oneself or another significantly increased. In many areas, the tool was called a “backstabber” due to people literally stabbing themselves while carrying it over their shoulder. Consequently, the double-bitted ax largely remained in the realm of the professional lumberjack.

Axes remained vital tools for loggers and all manner of rural residents alike up through the beginning of the 20 th century. It was then that the portable chainsaw was developed, which slowly replaced the trusty ax for most woodcutting jobs. When Dudley Cook published The Ax Book in 1999, he could confidently say: “If you want to be fashionable, buy a chainsaw. They are in.” His argument for the ax had a kind of wistful, quixotic tone, as chainsaws were then seen as status symbols for the suburban set, and axes had largely been forgotten.

A decade and a half later, things have swung the other way because of the recent revival in all things “heritage” related, axes are now very much “in.” But they tend to be bought by urban and suburban dwellers more as decorative and conversation pieces than tools. The utilitarian ax still has a place in the modern man’s shed, however, and does in fact offer some advantages over the chainsaw.

Advantages of the Ax

Chainsaws vs. axes isn’t an either/or question each tool works best for different tasks, and most folks who do a good amount of woodcutting employ both. But discussing the advantages of axes over chainsaws is an effective way to highlight exactly what an ax is good for and how it can be used.

  • Quiet. Chopping trees in the woods can be a meditative activity but the buzz of a chainsaw kills that calm. Chainsaws are so loud you’ll need to wear earmuffs to protect your hearing.
  • Safer. Axes can cause injuries to be sure, but they don’t run the danger of kickback and pinching like chainsaws do, and don’t chew up your body like a fast-rotating saw.
  • Less maintenance. A chainsaw requires a good amount of upkeep. You’ve got to keep it filled with fresh, ethanol-free gas, apply two different kinds of oil, clean the air filter, tighten the chain, and so on and so forth. If it breaks and you can’t fix it, you’ll have to bring it in for service. With an ax, all you’ve got to do is keep it sharp.
  • Less accessories. In addition to the gas and oil you’ll need for your chainsaw, you’ll also have to get special safety equipment like Kevlar chaps and earmuffs. With an ax, you’ll just need a sharpening stone/files and eye protection.
  • Portable. Chainsaws are bulky and require toting fuel along with them. Axes weigh two-thirds less, and are thus your best choice for carrying along deep into the woods.
  • Exercise. Chainsaws save you on exertion, but sometimes exertion is exactly what you’re looking for. Chopping wood gives you a damn good workout, which is why Henry Ford celebrated it as a task that warms you twice.

There’s a longer learning curve in using an ax (properly) than a chainsaw, and the latter can cut things quicker, but when you add in the prep of getting a chainsaw ready and the maintenance needed when your task is done, the time factor starts evening out. The simplicity of the ax — the fact you can grab it and go anywhere — is a beautiful thing. So by all means break out the chainsaw when you really need it for big woodcutting jobs, but keep the axe in mind as a viable option for your smaller tasks.

Anatomy of a Single-Bitted Ax

  • Ax Head: Typically has two ends — the bit or blade on one side, and the poll or butt on the other
  • Bit: The cutting portion of the ax head also known as the blade or the edge
  • Poll: The blunt part of the ax head that aids in balance and control also known as back, butt, or heel
  • Toe: Upper corner of the bit where the cutting edge begins
  • Heel: Bottom corner of bit
  • Cheek: The side of the axe head
  • Beard: Part of the bit that descends below the rest of the axe head
  • Handle/Haft: Usually made of springy hardwoods like hickory but can be made with durable synthetic materials
  • Shoulder: Where the head mounts onto the haft
  • Belly: Longest part of haft often made with slight bow
  • Throat: Where haft curves into the short grip
  • Knob: End of haft
  • Eye: Hole where the haft is mounted

Types of Axes

There are many types of axes out there — felling axes, splitting axes, carpenter’s axes, and so on — but they generally break down into two main categories:

Single-Bitted Ax

The single-bitted ax is the most common felling ax out there. It’s likely what you imagine when you hear the word “ax.” The head of a single bit has two ends on one you have the cutting bit (blade), and on the other the poll (butt). While the poll of an ax looks like a hammer, you should never hammer with it. You’ll just damage the ax head if you do.

Most single-bitted axes have a nice, gently curving handle that ends with a flourish curve at the knob. This curved design didn’t come into wide use until the middle of the 19th century. Before that time, the handles were straight. No one knows why the curved handle came into favor over the straight, because straight handles actually wobble less and are more accurate when swinging. One theory is that the curve was thought to increase springiness and whip, thus allowing the user to generate more force, but that’s up for debate. The lumberjacks of the 19 th and 20 th centuries swore by the straight handles on their double-bitted axes, and saw no reason to change. At any rate, some single bit manufacturers have gone to a straight handle these days, while many have stuck with the curved variety. The persistence of curved handles perhaps simply comes down to the fact that what it lacks in efficiency, it makes up for in good looks.

Single-bitted axes are great all-around woodcutting tools. You can fell medium-sized trees, buck them, and even limb them. While not ideal, in a pinch you could also use a single-bitted ax to split wood, though a true splitting maul is better suited for the job.

Double-Bitted Ax

Unlike the single-bitted ax that has a hammer-like poll on one end of the ax head, the double-bitted ax has two cutting edges. Typically, one edge is sharpened for fast, efficient, chopping, while the other is left a bit duller for limbing or chewing through tough knots.

Unlike the single-bitted ax with its pretty S-curve handle, a double-bitted ax requires a straight handle that allows the woodsman to swing it in either direction. The handles are also longer and thinner than those on single-bitted axes, allowing the swinger to generate more speed and power. While the longer handle would in theory make the ax more cumbersome, and force the user to trade accuracy for power, the double bit is in fact more accurate than its counterpart. The fact that both ends of the head are of equal length and weight gives the ax a greater balance and reduces wobbling on the swing. Together, these factors make the double bit the most effective ax, and explain why it was the go-to tool for professional lumberjacks.

While double-bitted axes are unmatchable chopping machines, and certainly look freaking awesome, if you don’t plan on felling copious amounts of trees there’s no need to have one, unless you just want it around for a decorative piece or perhaps to use as a battle-ax in our coming Mad Max dystopian future.

For most men, the single-bitted ax is the right choice. But which one to get? There are many factors to consider such as weight, size, handle type, etc., all of which we’ll cover in the next installment. Until then, keep your axes sharp, and stay manly.

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Acheulean technique has been thought to have been quite conservative, which could indicate a constraint in the development of the manufacturers&rsquo perceptive capacities. Yet there were advances from the earliest Acheulean tools, to the ones made in the middle of that period to the end.

Now the stone tools and hippo bone axe found in the Konso Formation in southern Ethiopia, from 1.4 million years to 1.25 million years in age, were worked bifacially, with a sophistication thought to have appeared only half a million years later.

The technique used to make the bone hand axe produces flakes with two ventral faces, indicating that its maker had a &ldquovision&rdquo for the rock blank, and planned it. Moreover, the Konso tools also evince advanced workmanship in thinning the tip, reduced sinuosity of the edges, and better symmetry, the archaeologists say.

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The number of flaking &ldquoscars&rdquo on the hippo femur fragment, their distribution pattern and fractures typical of flaking activity indicate anthropogenic endeavor, knapping the bone into a hand axe-like form &ndash rather than, say, being the outcome of simply hunting the hippo and butchering it. Here a tool had clearly been made and moreover, use-wear analysis indicates that the 13-centimeter-long bone handaxe had been used in longitudinal motions: to cut or saw, the archaeologists say.

The bone handaxe (micro-CT based render) shown placed in a hippopotamus femur Gen Suwa

This bone hand axe is the oldest known, extensively flaked example from the Early Pleistocene, the archaeologists say. The end result at Konso was tools that exhibited three-dimensional symmetry, a feature otherwise discovered only in much later sites in eastern Africa, dating to 1 million to 800,000 years ago.

There were &ldquoa handful&rdquo of other modified large bones at Konso but none of the others them were shaped like hand axes and the other tools found there were all made of stone.

The team does note that the tool assemblage at Konso is highly variable, as is the case in other East African hominin sites. This is also a good place to point out that the Konso hominins, at the time &ndash apparently Homo erectus, but it could have been someone else &ndash usually made tools of stone, but also made at least some tools from bone. It is possible that they made a lot of tools from bone but that most of their bone tools decayed over time, as bone does.

What might the Konso hand axe have been used for? We do not know at this stage, but microscopic analysis revealed areas of polish and striation patterns similar to stone hand axes that have been identified as having been used for butchery, the archaeologists write. Certainly erectus was a hunter. It bears qualifying that there is more research usage marks on stone tools than on the rare bone tools.

What does all of this mean? That our picture of the evolution of stone-tool technology and the abilities of primitive human predecessors is a work in progress, and that ancient hominins had rather better capabilities than we thought 1.4 million years ago.

Stone tools that revolutionised study of India's pre-history

A cleaver (left) from Attirampakkam in Tiruvallur district and a hand-axefrom Pallavaram, near Chennai, said to be about 15 lakh and five lakh years old respectively, discovered by geologist Robert Bruce Foote in May and September 1863.They are on display at the Government Museum, Chennai, for a few days from June 11. Photo: R. Ragu | Photo Credit: R_Ragu

On display at the Government Museum, Chennai, for a few days from June 11 are two stone tools discovered by geologist Robert Bruce Foote in May and September 1863 at the Brigade Ground at Pallavaram, Chennai, and Attirampakkam village in Tiruvallur district. He found a hand-axe at Pallavaram and a cleaver at Attirampakkam. They were paleolithic tools. Human beings fashioned them out of stones more than five lakh years to 15 lakh years ago.

Foote's discovery revolutionised the study of India's pre-history. For, it threw enormous light on how hunter-gatherers made these tools and used them to butcher animals, dig out tubers, tap sap from plants and so on. The pre-historic man was so skilful that he made a variety of these tools: hand-axes, cleavers, discoids, scrapers, choppers, knives and so on. (The word paleolithic comes from “paleo” which means old and “lithic” which means stone. Megalithic is big stone).

Although several organisations in India are preparing to celebrate the 150th year of Foote's (1834-1912) discovery of the “first paleolith of South India” next year, the Government Museum, Chennai, has chosen to “celebrate” it now and displayed these two stone tools he discovered at Pallavaram and Attirampakkam. The museum acquired his pre-historic collections in 1904.

Foote was a multi-faceted man. He was a geologist, archaeologist, ethnographer, palaeontologist, museologist and a landscape painter. He was the father of India's pre-history. He aimed for perfection in whatever he did. He systematically catalogued by 1910 all the stone tools he had discovered at Pallavaram, Attirampakkam and elsewhere. He proof-read the catalogue himself.

Shanti Pappu, specialist in Tamil Nadu's pre-history who conducted excavations at Attirampakkam and did insightful research on Foote's life and many-sided work, said: “There is no scholar of Foote's vision and perseverance in discovering India's pre-history and uniting different fields of science such as archaeology, geology, anthropology, museology etc.. into a comprehensive whole to turn the light on our past.” She called Foote “one of the most outstanding figures in India's archaeology.”

“I worked at Attirampakkam and it was a wonderful work that he did there 150 years ago. It was a humbling experience to work there.” Foote discovered a paleolithic artefact at “Pallavaram” on May 30, 1863. He and geologist W.King found more hand-axes, cleavers and scrapers from a dry stream-bed at “Atrampakkum” in September 1863. These phenomenal discoveries pushed back the antiquity of humankind in the Indian subcontinent and placed India in the world map of pre-history. While the stone tools found at Pallavaram were more than five lakh years old, Dr. Pappu estimated that those discovered at Attirampakkam were about 1.5 million years old.

In her scholarly article “Prehistoric Antiquities and Personal Lives: the Untold Story of Robert Bruce Foote” published in “Man and Environment,” Vol. XXXIII, No.1, 2008, Dr. Pappu says: “Through the years, literature written by and on Foote helps us gain insights into his personality — as a scientist and scholar and as a man standing in front of India's past with a sense of wonder and reverence… In his quest to unravel the mysteries of India's pre-history, we see a tale of great discoveries interwoven with the many joys and tragedies of personal life.”

He was a geologist of the Geological Survey of India, brought out publications on the tools found in the laterite formations in the then Madras and South Arcot districts, documented the antiquities of the Neolithic and Iron Age in Salem district in Tamil Nadu, wrote memoirs on the geology of the south Maharatta country and neighbouring districts, collected antiquities, painted landscape such as “View of Cape Comorin, the Kumla Kumari Pagoda…” and skilfully handled his finances.

Foote's grave is located in the graveyard of the Holy Trinity Church at Yercaud, Tamil Nadu. Nearby is the grave of his father-in-law Reverend Peter Percival, a scholar in Tamil and Telugu, who translated hundreds of Tamil proverbs into English, was a Registrar of the Madras University and Professor of Vernacular Literature in the Presidency College, Chennai.

Earliest Palaeolithic Tools

The stage of human development started at the time when people begin the use of tools for their aid. It was the time that laid the foundation of science and the uses of machines.

About 2.6 million years ago, human beings started the regular use of tools in east Africa.

In Indonesia, several hominid fossils have recently been dated between 1.8 and 1.6 million years.

In China, the early stone tools are associated with human fossils dated between 1.7 and 1.9 million years.

In India, no human fossils have been found associated with Stone Age tools.

The various strata of the Sivalik hills containing stone tools have been dated between 2 to 1.2 million years.

The archaeological site of Bori in Pune district of Maharashtra is about 1.38 million years old. It gives the scientific record for the early stone tools in India.

The early human settlement in India is contemporary to the Asian countries, but it is of the later period than that in the African region.

Museum Of The Stone Age

During the early and middle Palaeolithic, human ancestors such as Homo erectus developed Mode 2 Acheulian biface axes. They also made side scrapers and end scrapers that tended to be on thick flakes. (Click thumbnails to enlarge.)

In the Upper Palaeolithic, Neanderthal humans made Mousterian biface axes with a characteristic flat base, and scrapers which continued to be made on thick flakes. Later in the Palaeolithic, modern humans made Aurignacian industry flint tools that included pointed blades and more finely worked scrapers. (Click thumbnails to enlarge.)

In Mesolithic times, our ancestors made fine hunting tools, arrows and spears, using microliths. They also made woodworking tools like the Tranchet Adze, and picks, and a wide range of finely crafted scrapers, points, burins and other tools, based on their skill at making fine flakes and blades. (Click thumbnails to enlarge.)

In Neolithic times, people returned to making bifacial axes as core tools, but this time they usually polished them. They also made maces and hammers, and made more sophisticated arrowheads. They continued to make scrapers but they were less selective about their flint and less precise with their knapping. (Click thumbnails to enlarge.)

An identification checklist
To distinguish between an artefact and a geofact (a flint that has been shaped by natural processes such as frost) use the following checklist. Don't pay too much attention to the overall shape or possible function (whether it would make a good borer or spear point) but ask yourself:

SAPIENS Columnist

Stephen E. Nash is a historian of science and an archaeologist at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science. He studies a wide range of subjects, including dendrochronology (tree-ring dating), the history of museums, the archaeology of west-central New Mexico, and Russian gem-carving sculptures by Vasily Konovalenko. Nash has published numerous books, most recently Stories in Stone: The Enchanted Gem-Carving Sculptures of Vasily Konovalenko and An Anthropologist’s Arrival: A Memoir. He lives in Denver with his wife and three boys. Follow him on Twitter @nash_dr.

Watch the video: How to recognize ancient civilization primitive stone hand axes (June 2022).


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