This quartzite Acheulean cobble core is from Morocco. The Acheulean period dates to between ca. 170,000 BP to 1.7 million BP in the Sahara Desert region of North Africa. Technologically identical cores were also found in an Oldowan assemblage at Ain Boucherit, Algeria, dating up to ca. 2.4 million years BP.
The deep percussion scars on this artefact resulted from hard-hammer percussion flaking of a water-rolled quartzite cobble. The flaking strategy involved using the edges of prior scars as platforms for striking flakes from the opposite face, creating a bifacial edge. This same flaking strategy was used to shape handaxes during the Acheulean. This process created a chopper-like tool and the cortical surface opposite the cutting edge would have prevented injury to the hominin’s hand during use. However, it is possible that the desired product was the razor-sharp flakes that were detached, and this core was a byproduct in making flake tools.
Bifacially-flaked handaxes are characteristic of the Acheulean period, but simple percussion-flaked bifacial cores like those seen in earlier Oldowan assemblages were often made alongside them. In many stone artefact assemblages of Acheulean age, handaxes are absent altogether, and all of the stone tools are cobble cores and the flakes struck from them. It is unclear whether these non-handaxe Acheulean-age assemblages reflect different hominin social groups, different stone tool-using activities, or raw material constraints. Cobble cores are at the end of a shape continuum with ‘proto-bifaces’ or coarsely-flaked handaxes, and the typological division between cores and handaxes are often made arbitrarily, on the basis, for instance, of length-to-width (elongation) ratios (handaxes are more elongated).