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Durham University

Department of Archaeology

Research Postgraduates

Publication details for Professor Mark White

White, M.J. , Ashton, N.M. & Bridgland, D.R. (2019). Twisted handaxes in Middle Pleistocene Britain and their implications for regional-scale cultural variation and the deep history of Acheulean hominin groups. Proceedings of the Prehistoric Society 85: 61-81.

Author(s) from Durham


A better understood chronological framework for the Middle Pleistocene of Britain has enabled archaeologists to detect a number of temporally-restricted assemblage-types, based not on ‘culture historical’ schemes of typological progression but on independent dating methods and secure stratigraphic frameworks, especially river-terrace sequences. This includes a consistent pattern in the timing of Clactonian and Levalloisian industries, as well as a number of handaxe assemblage types that belong to different interglacial cycles. In other words, Derek Roe’s hunch that the apparent lack of coherent ‘cultural’ patterning was due to an inaccurate and inadequate chronological framework was correct. Some variation in handaxe shape is culturally significant. Here we focus on twisted ovate handaxes, which we have previously argued to belong predominantly to MIS 11. Recent discoveries have enabled us to refine our correlations. Twisted ovate assemblages are found in different regions of Britain in different substages of MIS 11 (East Anglia in MIS 11c and south of the Thames in MIS 11a), the Thames, and the MIS 11b cold interval separating the two occurrences. These patterns have the potential to reveal much about hominin settlement patterns, behaviour, and social networks during the Middle Pleistocene.