The Acheulean handaxe: More like a bird’s song than a Beatles’ tune?

Raymond Corbey, Mark Collard, Krist Vaesen, Adam Jagich

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

71 Citations (Scopus)
57 Downloads (Pure)


The goal of this paper is to provoke debate about the nature of an iconic artifact—
the Acheulean handaxe. Specifically, we want to initiate a conversation
about whether or not they are cultural objects. The vast majority of archeologists
assume that the behaviors involved in the production of handaxes were
acquired by social learning and that handaxes are therefore cultural. We will
argue that this assumption is not warranted on the basis of the available evidence
and that an alternative hypothesis should be given serious consideration.
This alternative hypothesis is that the form of Acheulean handaxes was at least
partly under genetic control.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)6-19
Number of pages13
JournalEvolutionary Anthropology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2016


  • Acheulean
  • handaxe
  • genetic transmission
  • phenotypic plasticity
  • social transmission
  • cultural evolution


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