The WEAP Method: a New Age in the Analysis of the Acheulean Handaxes

Abstract

This paper presents a unified methodology to describe critical features in lithic assemblages, in order to better interpret the Middle Pleistocene hominin occupation of western Europe, in the context of the Western European Acheulean Project (WEAP). This project aims to characterise the Acheulean technology of the western side of Europe by the analysis of 10 key assemblages in this area, to generate an in depth regional comparison in particular of the large cutting tools (LCTs). Nevertheless, to go beyond the local perspective and gain a regional point of view requires a deep understanding of the underlying technology to identify the differences or similarities in processes and traditions of manufacture. The different criteria to analyse and to categorise the results make it difficult to compare data from different research traditions (British, French and Spanish). Nevertheless, after decades of intense work on technological analysis and although many technological approaches have been developed, there are still differences in methods between the different countries. It was necessary to develop a unified, yet flexible, protocol to characterise the LCTs that could be adapted to the technological characteristics of each area or site. It also had to be a system that could describe tool technology and morphology, combined with a proper statistical treatment, to summarise all of the data and to compare the results. In addition, due to the recent development of innovative technologies, it is timely to move research forward to make more detailed comparisons between sites. In this paper, we test the WEAP method with three very different European sites, Galería and Gran Dolina-subunit TD10.1 (both in Atapuerca, Spain) and Boxgrove (Sussex, UK).

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Acknowledgements

This study has been developed at the Dpt. Britain, Europe and Prehistory (British Museum) at Franks House. The University of Bradford and Dr. Adrian Evans, throughout the “Fragmented Heritage AHRC Project”, leant us the scanner for the work. We feel really thankful to the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Dr. Leore Grosman and Antoine Muller, who have helped us with the Artifact3-D and AGMT3-D software. We also thank the editor and the two anonymous reviewers for their valuable comments and suggestions on the manuscript.

Funding Information

P.G.M. has a fellowship from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under the Marie Sklodowska-Curie grant agreement no. 748316. This work was developed within the frame of the projects PGC2018-093925-B-C32 (Spanish MICINU/FEDER), SGR 2017-1040 (AGAUR, Generalitat de Catalunya) and 2018PFR–URV-B2-91 (Univ. Rovira i Virigli).

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García-Medrano, P., Ashton, N., Moncel, MH. et al. The WEAP Method: a New Age in the Analysis of the Acheulean Handaxes. J Paleo Arch 3, 756–793 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s41982-020-00054-5

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Keywords

  • Middle Pleistocene
  • Acheulean
  • Handaxes
  • Typology
  • Chaîne opératoire
  • Geometric Morphometrics