This quartzite Acheulean handaxe is from Algeria. The handaxe was made on a very large flake blank. The Acheulean period dates to between ca. 170,000 BP to 1.7 million BP in the Sahara Desert region of North Africa.
This heavily weathered quartzite handaxe was made on a very large, thick flake blank that was struck from a massive core. This approach to making a large cutting tool was absent from the preceding Oldowan technology, and the large-flake strategy contrasts with making handaxes on cobbles or natural pieces of weathered rock. Both approaches were probably used by the same flintknappers, depending on the nature of the stone sources. The platform for the flake blank is at the butt of the handaxe, and the teardrop shape was created by non-invasive percussion flaking around most of the perimeter.
Handaxes are the earliest and longest-used ‘designed’ tool in human history, emerging in the archaeological record in Kenya (Kokiselei) and Ethiopia (Konso) ca. 1.75-1.8 million years ago. In North Africa, handaxes have been dated at Oued Boucherit in Algeria to 1.7 million years ago, and 1.3 million years ago at the Thomas Quarry site on the outskirts of Casablanca, Morocco. The earliest handaxes were likely made by Homo erectus, with the later handaxes in North Africa and Europe made by Homo heidelbergensis (also known as Homo rhodesiensis). Homo heidelbergensis is thought by many palaeoanthropologists to be the most recent common ancestor between modern humans like us and the Neanderthals. Fossils of Homo heidelbergensis have been found in the Sahara Desert region dating from ca. 600,000-700,000 BP, contemporary with North African Acheulean stone technology. The Acheulean period is thought to have ended about 170,000 BP, replaced by prepared core technologies, although handaxe manufacture persisted for longer in some regions.