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Non-biface assemblages and lithic variability in MIS13-11 Europe
Hannah Fluck  1, 2@  
1 : Historic England
2 : Visiting Fellow, University of Southampton

The Clactonian question - that is the presence of Middle Pleistocene assemblages in England that lack handaxes – has puzzled those concerned with the Palaeolithic of Britain for generations (e.g. Warren 1926; Wymer 1974 McNabb 1992; White 2000; Fluck 2011; Wenban-Smith 2013). However, the phenomenon of absent handaxes is not limited to the UK. By looking at those assemblages reported as lacking handaxes from across Europe an overall pattern of assemblage variation emerges that is often obscured by the focus upon handaxes.

The limitations of available raw material, chronological distinctions, geographical isolation and cultural variation have all been proposed as explanations. This paper will look at sites from England, the Iberian peninsula, France and central Europe and explore whether a single explanation for the absence of handaxes is appropriate, or whether our obsession with the handaxe has clouded a potentially more interesting picture of lithic variation in MIS13-11 Europe.

References:

Fluck, H. 2011. Non-biface assemblages in Middle Pleistocene western Europe. PhD Thesis, University of Southampton.

McNabb, J. 1992. The cutting edge, bifaces in the Clactonian. Lithics 23: 4-10

Warren, S. H. 1926. The classification of the Lower Palaeolithic with especial reference to Essex. The South Eastern Naturalist 31: 38-50

Wenban-Smith, F. (ed) 2013. The Ebbesfleet Elephant : Excavations at Southfleet Road, Swanscombe in Advance of High Speed 1, 2003-4. Oxford Archaeology Monograph.

White, M. 2000. The Clactonian question: on the interpretation of core-and-flake assemblages in the British Lower Palaeolithic. Journal of World Prehistory 14: 1-63.

Wymer, J. 1974. Clactonian and Acheulean industries in Britain: their chronology and significance. Geological Association Stopes memorial lecture.


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