Handaxe manufacture and re-sharpening throughout the Lower Paleolithic sequence of Tabun Cave

Ron Shimelmitz, Michael Bisson, Mina Weinstein-Evron, Steven L. Kuhn

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In this paper we assess the evidence for on-site manufacture and re-sharpening of handaxes in the Lower Paleolithic layers of Tabun Cave by examining the ratio of thinning flakes, the typical waste of bifacial manufacture, to handaxes. Our study of twenty nine assemblages ranging from the Acheulean to the Acheulo-Yabrudian complex, combining results from Jelinek's and Ronen's excavations, shows that thinning flakes are scarce throughout the entire sequence. Results indicate that handaxes were commonly not manufactured or re-sharpened in the excavated area and that these activities were most likely conducted outside the site. The late Lower Paleolithic in various parts of Eurasia and Africa is characterized by high variability in lithic technology, which in the case of the Levant is best reflected in the Acheulo-Yabrudian complex. This study aids our understanding of variability in the Levantine late Lower Paleolithic by adding the concept of segmentation of reduction as an integral part of late Lower Paleolithic lithic technology. Significantly, in Tabun Cave the segmentation of reduction that characterizes handaxe manufacture differs from the patterns observed in Amudian blade production and Yabrudian scraper manufacture, which were both regularly conducted on site. The extent of variability and flexibility is thus reflected not only in the technologies employed, but also in how different reduction sequences were segmented and executed across the landscape, suggesting a link between technical knowledge, mobility patterns and landscape exploitation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)118-131
Number of pages14
JournalQuaternary International
StatePublished - 15 Jan 2017

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We wish to thank Arthur Jelinek and Avraham Ronen for enabling us studying the material from their excavations at Tabun cave. Our study of the Tabun collection is partly supported by the Irene Levi Sala Care Archaeological Foundation and the Faculty of Graduate Studies and Research, McGill University.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2016


  • Handaxes
  • Lithic technology
  • Lower Paleolithic
  • Segmentation of reduction
  • Tabun Cave

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Earth-Surface Processes


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