Palaeolithic handaxe

Palaeolithic hand axe

made for specific tasks such as butchery or the preparation of hides

Flint handaxes such as this one are the only trace we have left of the hunter gatherer people who moved across this area in the Lower Palaeolithic period, between about 700,000-100,000BC, following the herds of animals which provided them with meat, hides, and bone.

The axes are made of stone, usually flint, and have survived the thousands of years since they were first made, then lost or discarded. No doubt their owners had tools and implements made of other natural materials such as wood or bone but these have not survived the millenia.

The axes vary in size and shape, and were probably made for specific tasks such as butchery or the preparation of hides, demonstrating the skills of our ancestors.

Quick Facts

  • Accession number A .1963.467
  • Found at Highfield, Southampton
  • Made of flint
  • Date made 700,000-100,000 BC
  • Period Lower Palaeolithic


This is known to archaeologists as a large Acheulian ‘ficron’ handaxe. Handaxes are large pieces of flint, roughly knapped into shape using another stone known as a hammerstone. A ficron handaxe has long curved sides and a pointed, well made tip. These were multi‐purpose tools used for digging, cutting and gouging. This type of stone manufacture is known as Acheulian, after a site in France where large quantities of these were found in the 19th century.

The Early People who made handaxes are known as "Homo Erectus" or "Upright People". In Africa, these people evolved into modern humans. In Europe, they evolved into Neanderthal People.

Acheulian handaxes are the most common Palaeolithic find in the Southampton area. Many are found in areas where there were river gravels, like Highfield and Shirley. This is because these gravels were largely formed by material washing down‐river in the post glacial period, and include much re‐deposited material from the higher land to the north. It is also thought that Palaeolithic people used camps beside rivers or lakes to ensure a supply of fresh water.


Did you know?

The Palaeolithic period, or "Old Stone Age" was characterised by climatic fluctuation, between periods of colder weather called glacials, when ice sheets expanded, and periods of warmer weather called interglacials, when ice sheets shrank. Sea level was often much lower, and England was then joined to the continent.

Give us your comments and stories!

Have a story about "Palaeolithic handaxe", or simply want to tell us what you think?
Add your thoughts below. You can sign in with Google, Twitter, Facebook, Yahoo! to get your story posted straight away - or just post a comment to be published later.

blog comments powered by Disqus

Where is this item?

Why not make a day of it?

Let us help you plan a route and make a visit