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Durham University

Department of Geography

Departmental Research Projects

Publication details

Bridgland, D.R. & White, M.J. Chronological variations in handaxes: patterns detected from fluvial archives in north-west Europe. Journal of Quaternary Science. 2015;30:623-638.

Author(s) from Durham


The use of handaxe morphology as a cultural and temporal marker within the Quaternary Lower–Middle Palaeolithic record has had a very chequered history, and abuses in the past have led recent generations of archaeologist to reject it out of hand. In Britain, however, advances in dating Pleistocene sediments, setting their ages within a framework of ∼11 glacial–interglacial cycles over the past 1 Ma, has revealed several patterns in technology and morphology that must be related to changing practices and cultural preferences over time. These are not predictable, nor are they linear, but nevertheless they may aid understanding of the movements of different peoples in and out of Britain over the past 500 000 years. It is also clear that such patterns are to be expected over a much wider region of the nearby continent, although they might not be identical, or even similar, to those established for southern Britain. This paper extends from explanation of the British patterns to an exploration of the extent to which something comparable can be recognized in neighbouring areas of continental Europe: a baseline for a planned collaborative survey of data from the Acheulean of north-west European river systems.

Department of Geography