Neanderthal handaxe

Neanderthal handaxe

The proportion of Neanderthal-inherited genetic material is about 1 to 4 percent. It is a small but very real proportion of ancestry in non-Africans today.

Middle Palaeolithic handaxe from Shirley, Southampton. It was found in the gravels of one of the river terraces associated with the Solent river system and shows signs of wear and traces of iron staining consistent with having been redeposited by the river. The handaxe is marked in ink ‘100’ WD’ recording that William Dale, the collector, discovered it associated with the 100’ terrace of the river system.

It is bifacially-worked and in the shape of a rounded triangle, what archaeologists call a ‘Bout-coupé’ handaxe.

What is interesting about such types is that they were not made by Homo sapiens, modern humans, but are associated primarily with Homo neanderthalensis. The Neanderthal is an extinct member of the homo genus found in Europe and parts of western and central Asia. Neanderthals are classified as a subspecies of modern humans.

They were much stronger than Homo sapiens, having particularly strong arms and hands and were better adapted biologically to cold weather. When climate change caused warmer temperatures, the Neanderthal range retreated to the north along with the cold-adapted species of mammals they hunted.

Quick Facts

  • Date made about 180,000 – 40,000 BC
  • Period Middle Palaeolithic
  • Dimensions Length 115mm, Width 95mm, Thickness 28mm (max.)
  • Made of flint
  • Found at Shirley, Southampton
  • Collector William Dale
  • Accession number WINCM:ARCH 2144.218


  • The handaxe was made by Homo sapiens neanderthalensis or ‘Neanderthal Man’ a subspecies of Homo sapiens.
  • The people we know as Neanderthals evolved from earlier people in Europe about 250,000 years ago. They are named after the Neander Valley in Germany where their bones were first identified.
  • Homo sapiens, modern humans, originated in Africa around 200,000 years ago. Neanderthals became extinct (due to climate change or interaction with humans) and were replaced by H. sapiens beginning around 80,000 years ago. Neanderthals were extinct by about 30,000 years ago.
  • William Dale was a noted local antiquary. His collection of nearly 600 flint artifacts, was purchased by Winchester City Museum in 1919 for £250.

Did you know?

Genetic evidence suggests interbreeding took place with Homo sapiens (modern humans) between roughly 80,000 and 50,000 years ago in the Middle East, resulting in 1–4% of the genome of people from Eurasia having been contributed by Neanderthals.


Middle Palaeolithic handaxe
3D Neanderthal handaxe
Hand gripping Neanderthal handaxe

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