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Neanderthal Handaxe

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  • Neanderthal Handaxe

    This little handaxe is Middle Paleolithic, made by the Neanderthals in a technocomplex called MTA (translated from the French as: Mousterian of Acheulean Tradition). I have no idea why the French mixed up the words and the acronym.

    The hand axe was found in a mixture of 'flints with clay', which was rich in iron and manganese oxide. The clays are wind-blown particles from periods of glaciation; called Loess. These iron rich clays usually imparts a brilliant white patina, but in some circumstances this creates a slight brown-yellow tint......but a red is highly unusual. The colour of this little handaxe is exceptional; if not unique in my long experience.

    It was made by a Nanderthal, from Southern Britain around 100,000-60,000 years ago

  • #2
    Nice colorful artifact
    South East Ga. Twin City

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    • #3
      Nice axe, but you may want to reconsider the dating. We had Neanderthal presence from around 400,000 years ago until about 180,000 years ago. The British mainland was then unoccupied until about 60,000 years ago for climatic reasons, when Neanderthals then returned from continental Europe. There were perhaps instances of hunting parties from the continent following game across from continental Europe during brief periods of interglacial warmth and becoming trapped here, but camps of that kind are both rare and uncertain.

      PS: the reason for ‘MTA’ is because, in French, the adjective follows the noun. So, while we say ‘Acheulean Tradition’, they would say ‘Tradition Acheulean’, in the same way that a red car is ‘une voiture rouge’ not ‘une rouge voiture’.

      I keep six honest serving-men (they taught me all I knew); Their names are What and Why and When and How and Where and Who.

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      • #4
        Wow that a long time in any regard. Too bad they didn’t date their pieces . What or how on earth could a Neanderthal have been dragging his knuckles for 220,000 years without being killed out or have gone extinct himself ? I hear too often hypothetical/hypothesized chunks of time being thrown out all the time as if absolute when we can’t even agree on stuff that happened 3,000 years ago in North America. I understand your coming from an evolutionary standpoint (I’m a creationist) but these lengthy timeframes are unimaginable when compared to all that’s happened JUST in the past 4,000 YEARS of written history that we have . If I’m not mistaken are these dates based on radio carbon dating ? Or a combination of ? If there were no programmable machine to conjure a date how would we come to the conclusion of these time frame , when these first human remains are missing Almost entirely? Ty

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        • #5
          Amazing ! what a find

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          • #6
            Originally posted by SGT.Digger View Post
            ... If I’m not mistaken are these dates based on radio carbon dating ? Or a combination of ? If there were no programmable machine to conjure a date how would we come to the conclusion of these time frame , when these first human remains are missing Almost entirely?...

            No, not the case. People get very hung up on “radiocarbon dating” but it’s not the only technique used and it has two particular limitations plus one potential limitation. Firstly, you need carbon to be present in sufficient quantity for analysis. Secondly, it’s generally regarded as unreliable for items more than about 50,000 years old (60,000 in some circumstances and 75,000 at most). Thirdly, it’s rather prone to erroneous results from contamination. For those reasons, it’s not the preferred technique for dating things like early hominin fossils or fossils in general. Fortunately, Carbon-14 is not the only isotope for which the decay curve can be used to determine age. There are plenty of others to choose from for radiometric dating, as well as other techniques, which generally don’t have the same limitations as for carbon-14.

            Often, we rely on Marine Isotope Stages (MIS) dating, also known as Oxygen Isotope Stages (OIS). These relate to the alternating warm and cool periods in the Earth's paleoclimate, deduced from oxygen isotope data reflecting changes in temperature. High levels of oxygen-18 represent cold glacial periods, while lows in the oxygen-18 levels, represent warm interglacial intervals. The data are derived from pollen and foraminifera (plankton) remains in drilled marine sediment cores, and other data that reflect historic climate.

            These kinds of techniques are used in combination with genome sequences derived from extracted mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA); skeletal morphology (especially where we have skull pieces among the bones); and dentition patterns together with tooth morphology. Both of the latter have evolutionary patterns that are species-specific.

            The earliest confirmed Neanderthal presence in Britain comes from a young female skull at 400,000 years old, found at Swanscombe in Kent. The earliest known Neanderthal remains (from 28 individuals) were found in Sima de los Huesos in the Sierra de Atapuerca of Spain, dated to approximately 430,000 years old.

            For the Sima de los Huesos remains for example, the dating comes from sedimentary infills unambiguously associated with the fossil assemblage using 'extended-range' luminescence dating techniques and palaeomagnetism studies. Specifically, post-infrared-infrared stimulated luminescence (pIR-IR) dating of K-feldspars and thermally transferred optically stimulated luminescence (TT-OSL) dating of individual quartz grains. The two techniques agreed closely with one another and provided a combined minimum age estimate of 427 ± 12 ka for the hominin fossils.

            Additional evidence from genome sequencing and comparison to data at other sites suggests that the divergence of Homo neanderthalensis and Homo sapiens lineages from their probable last common ancestor Homo heidelbergensis happened at least 500,000 years ago, probably at least 650,000 years ago, and perhaps around 800,000 years ago. Those first Neanderthals might be regarded as ‘proto-Neanderthals’, initially still carrying many of the same traits as early Homo sapiens.
            Last edited by painshill; 02-17-2022, 08:09 PM.
            I keep six honest serving-men (they taught me all I knew); Their names are What and Why and When and How and Where and Who.

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            • SGT.Digger
              SGT.Digger commented
              Editing a comment
              Thanks for the in-depth analysis, I will have to look 👀 into the other forms of dating that I have not heard nor have any info regarding their usage .hopefully soon we can have a complete fossilized skeleton insitu to add more clarity to the conversation .

            • tomf
              tomf commented
              Editing a comment
              Thanks, Roger.

            • outlaws15
              outlaws15 commented
              Editing a comment
              Great read
              Thanks

          • #7
            SGT.Digger commented
            Yesterday, 07:26 AM
            Thanks for the in-depth analysis, I will have to look 👀 into the other forms of dating that I have not heard nor have any info regarding their usage .hopefully soon we can have a complete fossilized skeleton insitu to add more clarity to the conversation .


            Actually, we have a fair number of Neanderthal bones including a number of skulls and jaws, which are the most useful for providing insight. A few of the skeletons are almost complete, although not well preserved and generally from the later Neanderthal period. Infant skeletons rather than adults tend to survive better, but are less useful with respect to morphology.

            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_o...erthal_fossils

            Probably the most complete, best preserved, earliest adult Neanderthal skeleton is “Altamura Man”, found by cavers at the bottom of a sinkhole in Southern Italy in 1993. It has been dated to more than 130,000 years old. Frustratingly it’s not readily accessible for scientists, requiring a 20 minute descent through narrow crevices to reach a small chamber deep in the karst cave system, where the skeleton is lodged. It’s also covered in calcite deposits. Here’s the skull:


            Click image for larger version

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            [Picture credit: Museo Archeologico di Altamura: Soprintendenza Archeologia della Puglia]

            Professor Jacopo Moggi-Cecchi of the University of Florence says: “This individual must have fallen down a shaft. Maybe he didn't see the hole in the ground. We think he sat there and died. The original shaft he fell through is no longer there. It's been filled by sediment so we are confident the entire skeleton is there. No animals could have got there.”

            The Neanderthal is a male adult, but not an old person, and his jaw has an almost complete set of teeth. He had lost two of them sometime before his death, which appears to have been the result of gum disease. Like other Neanderthals, his front teeth are larger than those of modern humans and his molars are the same size. The jaw is broader, and lacks the protruding chin that's typical of modern humans.

            Research published in 2015, based on sequencing of DNA recovered from the shoulder blade and dating of the calcite deposits, confirmed that the body was indeed Neanderthal and between 128,000 to 187,000 years old. For a more detailed analysis however, Professor Moggi-Cecchi said that it would be necessary to recover the skull (ideally the rest of the skeleton too if it can be removed without damaging it) and get it to a lab where the calcite mineralisation can be carefully removed.

            I keep six honest serving-men (they taught me all I knew); Their names are What and Why and When and How and Where and Who.

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            • outlaws15
              outlaws15 commented
              Editing a comment
              Wow.
              Thanks again

          • #8
            I know nothing of dating over there. What I do know is that Stine was heat treated BEFORE it was flaked. I guess I didn't know Neanderthal knew how to heat treat. Awesome artifact

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            • #9
              [QUOTE=painshill;n614782][SIZE=16px]Nice axe, but you may want to reconsider the dating. We had Neanderthal presence from around 400,000 years ago until about 180,000 years ago. The British mainland was then unoccupied until about 60,000 years ago for climatic reasons, when Neanderthals then returned from continental Europe. There were perhaps instances of hunting parties from the continent following game across from continental Europe during brief periods of interglacial warmth and becoming trapped here, but camps of that kind are both rare and uncertain.

              Roger, I believe that was the thinking until Wenban-Smith did the Dartford excavation, which they dated to between MIS 5b and 5d, using Optically stimulated luminescence (OSL).
              So that means there was occupation of Southern Britain between 87,000 and 109,000 years ago.

              The site I found this at has not been dated, so the wide spectrum of dates is a safe bet, based on the style of handaxe.

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              • #10
                Originally posted by Garguy View Post
                I know nothing of dating over there. What I do know is that Stine was heat treated BEFORE it was flaked. I guess I didn't know Neanderthal knew how to heat treat. Awesome artifact
                A good call, but this little handaxe is not heat treated, it is a patina not inherent colour change. This is a feature of the chemical compounds that have invaded the pores in the surface.
                When flint (silica) is dissolved over many tens of thousands of years the surface becomes dissolved in a process called disaggregation; which leaves the surface looking like honeycombe (at least under a microscope :-) ). Chemical compounds may invade those pores and it is what we are seeing here.

                I have a large collection of heat-treated flint, from a later period, so I am familiar with the difference. You are right that heat does alter the colour of flints and cherts, but that is inherent colour change. As an example, this long-blade bipolar core has been heat-treated. I have some from the same site that suffered modern damage and the colour is inherent; although the colours cahnge from the cortex, near surface and deeper into the flint.
                In contrast, the large nodule is from glacial gravels and I have broken it open to show how the internal flint is still its original dark colour

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                • #11
                  I'm pretty familiar with how heat effects flint and chert . You have it in hand so I defer to you but I'm pretty sure that was heat treated before it was flaked.

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                  • #12
                    Originally posted by Garguy View Post
                    I'm pretty familiar with how heat effects flint and chert . You have it in hand so I defer to you but I'm pretty sure that was heat treated before it was flaked.
                    There is no requirement to heat-treat flint to make handaxes. As you know, the process is suited to producing long wide blades and may even have been linked to the desire to influnce the colour of the stone tool. But that is not something we see in the Mousterian of Britain.
                    The only record of it being used by Middle Palaeolithic Neanderthals was at Fontmaure, where the coloured jaspers were presented to a flame; which turns the jasper red. This was reserved for the tips of objects and is rare even at the famous Fontmaure site. I know one collector who has specialised in this material and has the largest collection of heat-effected jasper in the world.

                    But the use of this method on MP flint tools is completely unknown. The earliest I know of is Upper Palaeolithic.

                    We should also differentiate between presenting the material to a flame (direct heat) and true heat-treating in a kiln (in-direct heat). The core I illustrated earlier was produced by in-direct heat (in a kiln beneath a fire). The long blade and the backed knife below are all from a heat-treated process (in-direct heat kiln) that is early Upper Palaeolithic. The knife I found (in situ) in two pieces, about 3 feet apart; having seemingly broken during knapping. It is still razor sharp and is likely approaching 40,000 years old !!!
                    The site this was found at is dominated by heat-treated flint. It was a large blade technocomplex, with research ongoing into who made them. The majority of the flint is the golden coloured type, with a darker layer near the cortex. The remains of the kilns and a few still loaded with nodules shows that lumps of iron rich sandstone were packed in amongst the nodules of flint. This seems to have imparted the yellow colour to the flint.
                    The rarer type on the site is the plain black flint tools; an example of which is th last picture below; which is a point with tip impact shear.

                    Your opinion on the effects of adding iron-rich sandstone to a kiln are welcome, as there is no documented explanation of the effects or improtance of this to the process.

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                    • #13
                      It's a cool artifact. Congrats

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                      • #14
                        Originally posted by Garguy View Post
                        It's a cool artifact. Congrats
                        have you any idea why they added iron-rich sandstone to the kiln ?
                        I'm hoping there are some knappers out there who have tried this or are willing to give it go to see what it does to flint/cherts. Specifically if it causes a colour change through the material

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                        • #15
                          I would not think adding sandstone to the kiln would effect the flint in any way. Maybe the use was more as fire brick to hold heat? Most cherts here (america) are naturally infused with enough iron to get a color change when heated. Especially near the surface. Your tool looks classically heat treated to me.

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