Relationship between Acheulean biface dimensions and hand size

J. Walker, K. Lee


This exploratory study sought to establish a possible relationship between the dimensions of Acheulean bifaces and the hand sizes of male and female tool users. Although many studies of biface design have focused on planform and symmetry, no attention has been given to ergonomic relationships between their size and the ability of users to handle them. An analysis of 263 digitised images of ovate bifaces held by the Archaeological Data Service revealed multimodal breadth and weight distributions skewed towards smaller sizes. An exploratory experiment was designed to test the relationship between the dimensions of larger and smaller reproduction ovate flint bifaces, male and female hand sizes, and reported ease of handling. The findings confirm a significant relationship between hand size and ease of handling the larger tool, but not the smaller tool. Females found it more difficult than males to use the larger biface but there was no significant sex-related difference in reported ease of handling the smaller tool. The findings support the possibility that prehistoric flint knappers had the cognitive ability and technical competence to make tools that addressed the ergonomic needs of users.

Full reference: Walker J. & Lee, L. 2016. Relationship between Acheulean biface dimensions and hand size. Lithics: the Journal of the Lithic Studies Society 37: 5–14.

Keywords: Sexual dimorphism, biface size, ergonomic, hand-axe

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