Metrical Variability Between South Asian Handaxe Assemblages: Preliminary Observations



The Indian subcontinent represents the easternmost abundant source of classic Acheulean technology in the Old World. Since the late nineteenth century, a large number of Acheulean sites have been reported from India, Pakistan, and most recently Nepal. This study focuses exclusively on handaxes and attempts to respectively compare published metrical data from individual assemblages and groups of assemblages with each other, using univariate and multivariate statistical methods (cluster analyses and the Mann–Whitney U test). The five main variables that are examined include mean values of handaxe length, breadth, thickness, and elongation and “refinement,” to reveal levels of statistical metric differences between handaxe groups and associated typological and geographic patterns. Preliminary results indicate that many of these handaxe assemblages are not metrically distinguishable as strictly Early or Late Acheulean types, as has been done in the past. While the handaxe assemblages geographically closest to each other broadly cluster together at the locality level (albeit inconsistently), there are significant statistical differences between groups of assemblages at interregional levels. This indicates that there was marked geographic and probably chronological overlap in the degrees of metric variation across the entire Indian subcontinent, possibly reflecting a dynamic intermediate developmental phase within the region following initial colonization by Acheulean hominins.



I would like to thank Stephen Lycett for inviting me to be the co-organizer of this dynamic and fun session on lithic analytical methods at the SAA meeting and also all the participants who presented very stimulating papers in Vancouver. Stephen has been particularly helpful and encouraging in various ways during this study, for which I am very grateful, and Noreen von Cramon-Taubadel provided very useful feedback and suggestions on an earlier version of this paper. My research in India, including data collection for this paper, has been funded by the National Geographic Society, Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research and the Fulbright Scholar Program. I also thank Nick Toth and Kathy Schick of the Stone Age Institute for the affiliation there, first as a Postdoctoral Fellow and now as a Research Associate, thus providing me with the time and resources to carry out this study and other related research. Any errors and assumptions made in this paper are entirely my own.


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Stone Age InstituteGosportUSA

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