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date: 25 February 2021

Abstract and Keywords

This article argues that the Acheulean is perhaps the longest lasting cultural–technological tradition in human history, dating from around 1.7 to 0.3 Mya and roughly corresponding to the time during which H. Erectus and H. Heidelbergensis lived in Africa. Unlike earlier Oldowan technology, Acheulean cores — handaxes, cleavers, and picks — were standardised, of predetermined shape and made on large cobbles and flakes. The extensive Acheulean archaeological record throughout Africa over 1.4 million years described is testimony to the success of this technology’s makers in different habitats, altitudes, and settings, but also to its apparent conservative cultural nature: a learned tradition passed on through thousands of generations of highly mobile hominin groups with small population sizes. Although there are differences between Early and Late Acheulean technology, the makers of these tools may have undergone more significant changes with respect to the use of other technologies, strategic land use, and social life.

Keywords: Acheulean, human history, H. Erectus, African hominins, handaxes, Acheulean ethnology, social transmission

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