Quantifying the Functional Utility of Handaxe Symmetry: An Experimental Butchery Approach

Anna Machin, Robert Hosfield, Steven Mithen, 2006

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Anna Machin, Robert Hosfield, Steven Mithen (2006) Quantifying the Functional Utility of Handaxe Symmetry: An Experimental Butchery Approach [data-set]. York: Archaeology Data Service [distributor] https://doi.org/10.5284/1000094

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The aim of this series of experiments was to empirically test the relationship between Acheulean handaxe form and effectiveness for butchery, and contribute to the continuing discussion regarding the factors influencing handaxe form. Whilst a number of small scale experiments have reported upon the efficacy of handaxes for butchery none has gone beyond the subjective experience of a single researcher using a small number of handaxes to butcher one or two carcasses. By using sixty handaxes, thirty fallow deer carcasses and two butchers we were able to produce a dataset which permitted the statistical analysis of the relationship between effectiveness (measured using the proxies of time and the scorings of the butchers) and nine measures of handaxe morphology (frontal and side symmetry, weight, length, breadth, thickness, percentage of the circumference worked, degree of thinning and degree of elongation). The archived dataset comprises a time log for the use of each handaxe (derived from video footage of the experiments) which details the time taken to complete the various processes involved in the butchery of half a deer carcass, digital images of the experimental handaxe assemblage and summary spreadsheets of the data collected - i.e. time and subjective scorings - for each butcher.