TUKUL 1: African Prehistory


Open air museum Tukul 2 Tukul 3 Tukul 4 panel 1 panel 2 panel 3 panel 4 panel 5 panel 6 panel 7 panel 8 panel 9 Open air museum Tukul 2 Tukul 3 Tukul 4 panel 1 panel 2 panel 3 panel 4 panel 5 panel 6 panel 7 panel 8 panel 9



Origin and meaning of the word

The name Acheulean derives from the village of Saint-Acheul, near Amiens, in France. It has been used for the first time in 1872 by the French prehistorian G. De Mortillet, to define the characteristic almond-shaped artifacts discovered in that locality in sediments referable to different phases of the Middle Pleistocene, together with other tools on flake and on pebble. The term was soon used to refer also to other similar lithic industries in Asia and in Africa. The evidence of the Acheulean in this continent is abundant and widespread, and it is now known that the Acheulean derives from the lates t and more highly developed complexes of the African Oldowan.

Characters and chronology

The African Acheulean is characterized by the frequency of bifacial tools (made from pebbles or large flakes), known as handaxes and cleavers, associated with a wide range of other artifacts on flake (scrapers, denticulated and notched tools, etc.) and on pebble (choppers, polyhedrons, spheroids).In the great African sites, handaxes and cleavers are extremely frequent. The earliest evidence of Acheulean lithic industries was found in Ethiopia, in the site of Konso Gardula, dated to about 1.4 Myr. Sites referable to the Acheulean are known in the African continent up to about 200,000 years ago.

The African Acheulean sites

Probably as a consequence of the absence of documentation in the other areas, the oldest phases of the African Acheulean seem so far to be limited to East and South Africa (Olduvai, Konso Gardula, Melka Kunture, Gadeb, Barogali, Olorgesailie, Sterkfontein, etc.).

However, at about 1.0 Myr, the Acheulean is spread all over the African continent; important sites are known along the Mediterranean coast, for example in Morocco (Casablanca), Algeria (Aïn Hanech, Ternifine), Libya (El Fasquya), Zambia (Kalambo Falls), Tunisia (Sidi Zin, Khoum el Majène) and Egypt (Abassieh, Khor Abu Anga, Dakhla and Kharga Oasis) and also in Central and West Africa, for example in Chad (Gamba and Ehi Kourhei), Niger (Silemi) and Mali (Foum el Alba).


Diffusion in the Old World

Groups of Homo erectus were probably responsible for the diffusion of the Acheulean outside the African continent, in Asia and in Europe. The first evidence of the presence of this technocomplex in the Old World is quite ancient, as documented by the lithic industries from different levels in the site of Ubeidiya, on the right bank of the Jordan, in Israel, dated to about 1.4 Myr. Recent discoveries in the Bose basin in Southern China indicate that human groups with the same Acheulean industry were present in Asia from the beginning of the Middle Pleistocene, around 800,000 years ago, while in Europe the oldest sites with handaxes, such as Notarchirico in Basilicata (Italy), date back to about 650,000 years ago.

Acheulean site of Notarchirico (Italy)

Acheulean handaxes from Bose (China)


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