Saturday 19 January 2013

More North American 'Hand Axes'

Okay, okay. I've mentioned the 75 'hand axes' discarded at El Pulguero, Baja California. I can tell you from personal observation that Baja has plenty of similar 'Acheulean' archaeological occurrences. Shortly after I moved to Berkeley, California to take up my Ph.D. preparation at UC Berkeley I was invited to a holiday celebration at the then offices of the Institute for Human Oranges Origins and the Berkeley Geochronology Laboratory, just north of campus. I met Garniss Curtis and Carl Swisher that night, along with Don Johanson and Bill Kimball. Besides my companion for the night, the most memorable moments were when someone off-handedly mentioned a tray of hand axes that had been collected in Baja California. They were every inch hand axes, if calling large bifacial cores by that name is your habit.
     Such artifacts aren't unique to the Baja peninsula, either, to which the objects in the photo below will attest. Those below, from the Topper site in the Carolinas, scream HAND AXE to me. How 'bout you?

Source: Ashley M. Smallwood. "Clovis biface technology at the Topper site, South Carolina: evidence for variation and technological flexibility." Journal of Archaeological Science 37:2413--2425, 2010.
I don't normally like rubbing other people's noses in the stuff they peddle. However, in the case of North America's spitting-image-of-hand-axes bifaces, I simply can't help myself. There are yet more. Those illustrated below arise from the GS Lewis site, also in the Carolinas. These, too, are referred to as "preforms," although the reduction sequence, if one existed for these 'facts, isn't well represented in this graphic, which was presumably intended to do just that. The upper 'fact is cleaver shaped, while the lower is hand axe shaped. It's hard for me to see how the one arises from further reduction of the other in this scheme.

Sassaman, Kenneth E., Randy Daniel, and Christopher R. Moore. "GS Lewis-East: Early and Late Archaic Occupations Along the Savannah River, Aiken County, South Carolina." Savannah River Archaeological Research Program, South Carolina Institute of Archaeology and Anthropology, University of South Carolina, 2002.
So, my astute archaeological acolytes, what's a subversive to do, save to continue inching the knife inward at the same time as twisting it ever so slightly to remind the victim that one is serious about the intended outcome? Or, do I ease off, hoping that I've made my *cough* point?

Final word of the day: If you keep coming back, I'll keep on trying to give you something to compensate you adequately for your effort. TTFN!

SA announces new posts on the Subversive Archaeologist's facebook page (mirrored on Rob Gargett's news feed), on Robert H. Gargett's page, Rob Gargett's twitter account, and his Google+ page. A few of you have already signed up to receive email when I post. Others have subscribed to the blog's RSS feeds. You can also become a 'member' of the blog through Google Friend Connect. Thank you for your continued patronage. You're the reason I do this.


  1. What about the obsidian biface found in the hand of 'Chief Andre' so many years ago? That was in his HAND, you found it, you saw it! Surely that was a handaxe...

  2. You've got me there, Spawn! Them were golden days, sure as I'm aloive.

  3. Ok I'll bite,.....Chief Andre? who, what, when, and where?

  4. Hi, Anon.
    In the dunes near the present-day mouth of the Pajaro River, in Santa Cruz County. Two occupations. One about 8 or 9 kyr ago. One, about 3-5 kyr ago. One of the 3-4 kyr old people had a brace of unbelievably beautiful bifaces. One resembled a Gunter Point, but was about 10 cm long. The other, made of Mt. Diablo obsidian, was a dead-ringer-for-a-Solutrean biface about 20 cm long. The owner was a VERY tall individual, and in honour of a popular culture figure, we nicknamed him André (the Giant). I hope that helps. Some day maybe I'll talk about the implications.


Thanks for visiting!

Note: only a member of this blog may post a comment.