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Durham University

Department of Archaeology

Research Postgraduates

Publication details for Professor Mark White

White, M.J. & Foulds, F.W.F. (2018). Symmetry is its own reward: on the character and significance of Acheulean handaxe symmetry in the Middle Pleistocene. Antiquity 92(362): 304-319.

Author(s) from Durham


Bilateral symmetry in handaxes has significant implications for hominin cognitive and socio-behavioural evolution. Here the authors show that high levels of symmetry occur in the British Late Middle Pleistocene Acheulean, which they consider to be a deliberate, socially mediated act. Furthermore, they argue that lithic technology in general, and handaxes in particular, were part of a pleasure-reward system linked to dopamine-releasing neurons in the brain. Making handaxes made Acheulean hominins happy, and one particularly pleasing property was symmetry.