The acheulean handaxe: More like a bird's song than a beatles' tune?

Raymond Corbey, Adam Jagich, Krist Vaesen, Mark Collard

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

68 Citations (Scopus)
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The goal of this paper is to provoke debate about the nature of an iconic artifact-the Acheulean handaxe. Specifically, we want to initiate a conversation about whether or not they are cultural objects. The vast majority of archeologists assume that the behaviors involved in the production of handaxes were acquired by social learning and that handaxes are therefore cultural. We will argue that this assumption is not warranted on the basis of the available evidence and that an alternative hypothesis should be given serious consideration. This alternative hypothesis is that the form of Acheulean handaxes was at least partly under genetic control.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)6-19
Number of pages14
JournalEvolutionary anthropology
Issue number1
Early online date22 Jan 2016
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2016

Bibliographical note

© 2016 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.

KV is supported by the Netherlands Organization for Scientific
Research. MC is supported by the Canada Research Chairs Program,
the Social Sciences and Humanities Research of Canada, the Canada Foundation for Innovation, the British Columbia Knowledge Development Fund, and Simon Fraser University


  • Acheulean handaxe
  • cultural transmission
  • social learning
  • genetic transmission


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