The University of Southampton
University of Southampton Institutional Repository

The large cutting tools from the South African Acheulean and the question of social traditions

McNabb, John, Binyon, Francesca and Hazelwood, Lee (2004) The large cutting tools from the South African Acheulean and the question of social traditions Current Anthropology, 45, (5), pp. 653-677. (doi:10.1086/423973).

Record type: Article


Handaxes and cleavers are the keystone of the Acheulean, a stone-tool-making phenomenon which was made for over a million years (ca. < 1.7 to < 0.25 million years). These large cutting tools are considered a product of social learning within cooperating groups of Homo ergaster and Homo heidelbergensis in Africa and Europe. This paper concetrates on data from the Cave of Hearths and six other South African late Early Pleistocene and Middle Pleistocene sites. It argues that the influence of strong social learning which imposes communally sanctioned practices in manufacture and end product is absent. Individuals reproduce what they are already habituated to, but there is no cultural requirement of form or practicethis is negotiated by individuals. Many of the criteria used by archaeologists to identify benchmarks in hominin cognitive development, such as symmetry, need to be reassessed in the context of assemblage-based understandings.

PDF 045003.web.pdf - Version of Record
Restricted to Repository staff only
Download (486kB)

More information

Published date: December 2004


Local EPrints ID: 39158
ISSN: 0011-3204
PURE UUID: 5aafd74b-4401-4fde-96b4-4885f3e31d90

Catalogue record

Date deposited: 21 Jun 2006
Last modified: 17 Jul 2017 15:37

Export record



Author: John McNabb
Author: Francesca Binyon
Author: Lee Hazelwood

University divisions

Download statistics

Downloads from ePrints over the past year. Other digital versions may also be available to download e.g. from the publisher's website.

View more statistics

Atom RSS 1.0 RSS 2.0

Contact ePrints Soton:

ePrints Soton supports OAI 2.0 with a base URL of

This repository has been built using EPrints software, developed at the University of Southampton, but available to everyone to use.

We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you continue without changing your settings, we will assume that you are happy to receive cookies on the University of Southampton website.