Hand axe

From Academic Kids

A hand axe is a bifacial Paleolithic core tool. This kind of axe is typical of the lower (Acheulean) and the middle Palaeolithic (Mousterian) and is the longest used tool of human history.

Hand axe from Boxgrove, England, tip re-sharpened by transverse blow
Hand axe from Boxgrove, England, tip re-sharpened by transverse blow


Handaxes are only found in Africa, Europe and Northern Asia, while South-Asia retained flake-industries (Hoabhinian).


The older handaxes were produced by direct percussion with a stone hammer and can be distinguished by their thickness and a sinous border. Later (Mousterian) handaxes were produced with a soft billet of antler or wood an are much thinner, more symmetrical and have a straight border.

An experienced knapper needs less than 15 minutes to produce a handaxe.

Raw materials

Handaxes are mainly made of flint, but rhyolites, phonolites, quarzites and other rather coarse rocks were used as well. Soft materials like obsidian were rarely used.


Several basic shapes, like cordate, oval, triangular etc. have been distinguished, but their chronological significance is not agreed upon.


As most handaxes have a sharp border all around, there is no agreement about their use. Interpretations range from cutting and chopping tools to digging implements, flake cores, the use in traps and a purely ritual significance, maybe in courting behaviour. There are no indications of hafting, and indeed some artifacts are far too large for that.


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Stone Age Hand Axes (http://www.abotech.com/Articles/Kowalski02.htm)



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