This handaxe was recovered from the Somme River gravels at Cagny, upstream from St Acheul and Amiens in France. The handaxes from the gravels around Cagny date between ca. 300,000-500,000 BP.
This flint handaxe is part of a collection of Paleolithic artifacts that was acquired in 1929 by James Bell Bullitt during a tour of western Europe and later donated to the University of North Carolina. The handaxe was produced by bold percussion flaking with a hammerstone, and minimal subsequent trimming.
The artefact is curated in the North Carolina Archaeological Collection, Research Laboratories of Archaeology, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, catalog no. 513a1.
Handaxes were discovered by workmen quarrying the river gravels at St Acheul, Amiens, and Abbeville in the 1830s (the workmen called them langues de chat, or ‘cat’s tongues’), and the antiquarian Boucher de Perthes recognised that they were deliberately fashioned tools in 1842. He was among the first researchers to recognise that humans were alive at the same time as extinct elephants and rhinoceros of the Pleistocene period. He published his findings in 1847, but his observations were not widely accepted until finally vindicated in 1859 by the geologist Joseph Prestwich and antiquarian John Evans of the British scientific establishment. This softened the ground for Charles Darwin’s model of evolution in On the Origin of Species in 1859, and, in 1871, his ideas on human evolution in The Descent of Man.