Pole to Pole. Archaeology and Adaptation in the Middle Pleistocene at Opposite Ends of the Acheulean World



The concept of cultural evolution in the Acheulean is linked to a number of important anatomical, phylogenetic, adaptive, cultural and cognitive research questions. Yet there are very few studies which are able to demonstrate advancements in material culture (technological and/or conceptual) supported by large bodies of empirical data. Derek Roe's work at Olduvai Gorge is one of the few exceptions and here, in my opinion, raw material considerations affect the evidence of increasing diachronic sophistication (Leakey and Roe 1994). Otherwise, evidence for such material culture evolution is largely anecdotal. This study takes large bodies of handaxe data from South Africa and Britain, and using dated assemblages, wherever possible, explores the idea of hominins paying increasing attention to shape and morphological regularity (not symmetry) over time. The results give no reason to believe such a diachronic trend exists. These data are set against the latest research in chronostratigraphic studies and hominin taxonomy.