The Story of the British Museum, £8.99
Length: 190.000 mm
Width: 87.000 mm
Thickness: 42.000 mm
On loan from the Society of Antiquaries of London .
Lower Palaeolithic, about 400,000 years ago
From Hoxne, Suffolk, England
From '...a very remote period indeed'
'They are, I think, evidently weapons of war, fabricated and used by a people who had not the use of metals.' and from '... a very remote period indeed.' wrote John Frere in 1797. This was the earliest recognition that handaxes were the work of early humans, rather than thunderbolts or meteorites. It was over sixty years later that the antiquity of humans was more widely appreciated.
This handaxe has been carefully flaked on both faces to produce a pointed form. The two sharp cutting edges mean that the handaxe could have been used as a general purpose butchery tool, or for other cutting tasks.
The site at Hoxne has been the subject of several excavations. The most recent, in the 1970s, uncovered extensive flint working areas on the edge of an ancient river. Analysis of pollen and of animal bones, including elephant, rhinoceros and lion, has shown that humans occupied the site towards the end of a warm period, or interglacial, about 400,000 years ago. This period has been named the 'Hoxnian interglacial' after the site.
K. Sloan (ed.), Enlightenment. Discovering the (London, The British Museum Press, 2003)
R. Singer, B.G. Gladfelter and J.J. Wymer, The Lower Paleolithic site at (Chicago, University of Chicago Press, 1993)