DResearchers at University College London’s (UCL) Institute of Archeology have discovered a cache of 800 stone objects dating back 300,000 years. Among the finds is one of the largest hand axes ever found in Britain.
Caption Image, from the study: A huge ‘Giant Hand Axe’ shown from various angles from the Maritime Academy excavations. (Archaeology South East/UCL)
Archaeological excavations at the new Palaeolithic site of Manor Farm in Frindsbury, Kent, began in early 2021, ahead of the development of the site into a new school called the Maritime Academy.
An excavated site in England. (L. Ingre et al./ Internet Archeology)
The silt dredge is thought to have come from a tributary of the River Medway Middle PleistoceneA veritable treasure trove of stone objects was discovered, including two large flint hand molds.
Excavators carry out excavations at the site of the Maritime Academy School in Princesbury, Kent. (Archaeology South East/UCL)
One of them called Registered invention 50, 230 mm long, but its tip is missing. But that’s it Registered invention 53 296mm long and with a thick butt leading to a “long and carefully crafted” knife-like tip, the shallow concave profile and sharp edges make up roughly half the symmetrical tool length.
For reference, the Sea number 53 Believed to be the third largest hand ax found in Britain, the undisputed champion ‘Great Hand Axe’ was found at a site on Furs Flat in Berkshire and is said to be 395mm long.
According to Letty Ingrey, the group’s lead archaeologist:
When these instruments are over 22cm in length we call them ‘giants’ and two of them are that size. At an exceptionally long 29.6cm, the largest is one of the longest ever found in Britain. Giant hand prints of this type are commonly found in the Thames and Medway areas and date back 300,000 years.
Letty Ingrey, chief archaeologist at University College London, examined the world’s largest hand axe. (Archaeology South East/UCL)
At the time, the region must have been home to “wooded hills and river valleys” inhabited by wild horses and red deer, and perhaps elephants and tusk lions. Hand axes may have been used to cut animal skin or meat, although UCL researchers have identified this particular tool as ” Fran“, a type of hand ax with a “distinctly symmetrical long and narrow tip” was used in this way.
These hand prints are so large that it is hard to imagine how they can be easily held and used. Perhaps they fulfilled a less practical or more symbolic function than other instruments, a clear demonstration of strength and skill.
As of now, this is an unknown. The team hopes that by closely examining the artifacts found on the sea floor, they will shed light on why such large tools were made and determine what kind of edges early humans carved.
According to UCL’s Dr Matt Pope:
Oceanographic Academy excavations have given us the opportunity to study how an entire Ice Age landscape developed a quarter of a million years ago. The scientific research project, involving experts from UCL and other UK institutions, is helping to understand why the site was important to ancient people and “how stone artefacts, including giant hand axes, helped them adapt to the challenges of an Ice Age environment. .
Interestingly, the same site led to a second discovery in the form of a Roman tomb sometime between the first and fourth centuries AD. The remains of 25 people were found, half of whom were cremated. Nine of them were buried with personal items and four in wooden coffins. Pottery fragments and animal bones were found nearby, which were part of burial feasts.
The study, published in the Internet Archeology Journal: On the Discovery of the Late Achillean ‘Giant’ Handax from the Maritime Academy, Frindsbury, KentOpen Data and presented on the University College London website: Giant stone artefacts have been discovered at a rare Ice Age site in Kent. 3D model of the ax available on Sketchbook: Maritime Academy Giant Handaxe.
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