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The morphology of Acheulean handaxes continues to be a subject of debate amongst Lower Palaeolithic archaeologists, with some arguing that many handaxes are over-engineered for a subsistence function alone. This study aims to provide an empirical foundation for these debates by testing the relationship between a range of morphological variables, including symmetry, and the effectiveness of handaxes for butchery. Sixty handaxes were used to butcher 30 fallow deer by both a professional and a non-professional butcher. Regression analysis on the resultant data set indicates that while frontal symmetry may explain a small amount of variance in the effectiveness of handaxes for butchery, a large percentage of variance remains unexplained by symmetry or any of the other morphological variables under consideration. © 2006 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

Original publication




Journal article


Journal of Archaeological Science

Publication Date





883 - 893