3D morphology of handaxes from late Acheulean Jaljulia: a flexible reduction strategy in the Lower Paleolithic Levant

Antoine Muller*, Ran Barkai, Maayan Shemer, Leore Grosman

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


The nature of lithic morphological variability during the Acheulean is a much-debated topic, especially in the late Acheulean of the Levant. To explore this issue, we present a 3D analysis of 260 handaxes from Jaljulia, a recently discovered late Acheulean site dated to ca. 500–300/200 ka. We employ a comprehensive suite of 3D methods aimed at reconstructing the technological and morphological choices enacted by the Jaljulia knappers. These methods include the precise calculation of orthogonal measurements, center of mass, surface area, edge length, and geometric morphometrics, as well as new metrics for quantifying handaxe outlines and distribution of mass. Scar density was used to reconstruct the handaxe reduction strategies employed at the site. Our analyses reveal that the Jaljulia handaxes are diverse in shape suggesting that they were made following a flexible reduction sequence involving an expedient selection of initial nodules of varying sizes. This reduction strategy was geared toward improving the refinement and outline quality of the handaxes, but not imposing any shape constraints. The expediency and relative crudeness of the handaxes from such a late Acheulean site belie the commonly held perception that handaxes improve through time during the Acheulean. This is true on an intra-site scale also, with the oldest excavation area containing the most refined and smooth-edged handaxes. Finally, we consider how this newfound morphological flexibility and expediency of nodule selection fit within the complex lithic variability occurring in the terminal phase of the Acheulean.

Original languageAmerican English
Article number206
JournalArchaeological and Anthropological Sciences
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 2022

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022, The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature.


  • 3D Scanning
  • Acheulean
  • Handaxe
  • Jaljulia
  • Lithic Technology
  • Southern Levant


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