Reevaluation of the Classification Scheme of the Acheulian in the Levant - 50 Years Later: A Morpho-Technological Analysis of Handaxe Variability

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Gadi Herzlinger
Alexandre Varanda
Marianne Deschamps
Michel Brenet
Christina Lopez-Tascon
Naama Goren-Inbar

Abstract

The chrono-cultural scheme of the Acheulian Technocomplex in the Levant, developed in the 1970’s on the basis of handaxe typological variability, still serves as the main framework for the description of this cultural entity and as a benchmark for the classification of new Acheulian assemblages. It consists of a tripartite division into Early, Middle, and Late Acheulian and it postulates a development in the shapes, sizes, and refinement of handaxes, suggesting that they become rounder, smaller, and more ‘finely made’ over time. The following study applies new analytical approaches, a 3D geometric morphometric shape analysis, a typo-technological attribute analysis, and diacritic diagrams to a large collection of handaxes from five sites in Israel in order to test the validity of the tripartite division, and to provide a detailed characterization of the nature of diachronic changes in handaxe properties. The results suggest that the general chrono-cultural division is valid, as assemblages pertaining to each of its three phases indeed differ significantly in terms of morphology and production technologies. In addition, they indicate a complex trend of change, in which the Middle Acheulian assemblage presents higher values of morpho-technological aspects associated with craftsmanship than some of the Late Acheulian assemblages. Lastly, the quantitative and objective nature of the approach and availability of the raw data establish a foundation for future expansion of this study by additional samples from different regions and chronologies.

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