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Acheulean (/əˈʃliən/; also Acheulian and Mode II), from the French acheuléen after the type site of Saint-Acheul, is an archaeological industry of stone tool manufacture characterized by distinctive oval and pear-shaped "hand-axes" associated with Homo erectus and derived species such as Homo heidelbergensis.

Acheulean tools were produced during the Lower Palaeolithic era across Africa and much of West Asia, South Asia, East Asia and Europe, and are typically found with Homo erectus remains. It is thought that Acheulean technologies first developed about 1.76 million years ago, derived from the more primitive Oldowan technology associated with Homo habilis.[3] The Acheulean includes at least the early part of the Middle Paleolithic. Its end is not well defined, depending on whether Sangoan (also known as "Epi-Acheulean") is included, it may be taken to last until as late as 130,000 years ago. In Europe and Western Asia, early Neanderthals adopted Acheulean technology, transitioning to Mousterian by about 160,000 years ago.

Most notably, however, it is Homo ergaster (sometimes called early Homo erectus), whose assemblages are almost exclusively Acheulean, who used the technique. Later, the related species Homo heidelbergensis (the common ancestor of both Neanderthals and Homo sapiens) used it extensively.[citation needed] Late Acheulean tools were still used by species derived from H. erectus, including Homo sapiens idaltu and early Neanderthals.[33]

The symmetry of the hand-axes has been used to suggest that Acheulean tool users possessed the ability to use language;[34] the parts of the brain connected with fine control and movement are located in the same region that controls speech. The wider variety of tool types compared to earlier industries and their aesthetically as well as functionally pleasing form could indicate a higher intellectual level in Acheulean tool users than in earlier hominines.rainforest around the River Congo which is not thought to have been colonized by hominids until later. It is thought that from Africa their use spread north and east to Asia: from Anatolia, through the Arabian Peninsula, across modern day Iran[29] and Pakistan, and into India, and beyond. In Europe their users reached the Pannonian Basin and the western Mediterranean regions, modern day France, the Low Countries, western Germany, and southern and central Britain. Areas further north did not see human occupation until much later, due to glaciation. In Athirampakkam at Chennai in Tamil Nadu the Acheulean age started at 1.51 mya and it is also prior than North India and Europe.[30]

Until the 1980s, it was thought that the humans who arrived in East Asia abandoned the hand-axe technology of their ancestors and adopted chopper tools instead. An apparent division between Acheulean and non-Acheulean tool industries was identified by Hallam L. Movius, who drew the Movius Line across northern India to show where the traditions seemed to diverge. Later finds of Acheulean tools at Chongokni in South Korea and also in Mongolia and China, however, cast doubt on the reliability of Movius's distinction.[31] Since then, a different di

Until the 1980s, it was thought that the humans who arrived in East Asia abandoned the hand-axe technology of their ancestors and adopted chopper tools instead. An apparent division between Acheulean and non-Acheulean tool industries was identified by Hallam L. Movius, who drew the Movius Line across northern India to show where the traditions seemed to diverge. Later finds of Acheulean tools at Chongokni in South Korea and also in Mongolia and China, however, cast doubt on the reliability of Movius's distinction.[31] Since then, a different division known as the Roe Line has been suggested. This runs across North Africa to Israel and thence to India, separating two different techniques used by Acheulean toolmakers. North and east of the Roe Line, Acheulean hand-axes were made directly from large stone nodules and cores; while, to the south and west, they were made from flakes struck from these nodules.[32]

Most notably, however, it is Homo ergaster (sometimes called early Homo erectus), whose assemblages are almost exclusively Acheulean, who used the technique. Later, the related species Homo heidelbergensis (the common ancestor of both Neanderthals and Homo sapiens) used it extensively.[citation needed] Late Acheulean tools were still used by species derived from H. erectus, including Homo sapiens idaltu and early Neanderthals.[33]

The symmetry of the hand-axes has been used to suggest that Acheulean tool users possessed the ability to use language;[34] the parts of the brain connected with fine control and movement are located in the same region that controls speech. The wider variety of tool types compared to earlier industries and their aesthetically as well as functionally pleasing form could indicate a higher intellectual level in Acheulean tool users than in earlier hominines.[35] Others argue that there is no correlation between spatial abilities in tool making and linguistic behaviour, and that language is not learned or conceived in the same manner as artefact manufacture.[36]

Lower Palaeolithic finds made in association with Acheulean hand-axes, such as the Venus of Berekhat Ram,[37] have been used to argue for artistic expression amongst the tool users. The incised elephant tibia from Bilzingsleben[

The symmetry of the hand-axes has been used to suggest that Acheulean tool users possessed the ability to use language;[34] the parts of the brain connected with fine control and movement are located in the same region that controls speech. The wider variety of tool types compared to earlier industries and their aesthetically as well as functionally pleasing form could indicate a higher intellectual level in Acheulean tool users than in earlier hominines.[35] Others argue that there is no correlation between spatial abilities in tool making and linguistic behaviour, and that language is not learned or conceived in the same manner as artefact manufacture.[36]

Lower Palaeolithic finds made in association with Acheulean hand-axes, such as the Venus of Berekhat Ram,[37] have been used to argue for artistic expression amongst the tool users. The incised elephant tibia from Bilzingsleben[38] in Germany, and ochre finds from Kapthurin in Kenya[39] and Duinefontein in South Africa,[40] are sometimes cited as being some of the earliest examples of an aesthetic sensibility in human history. There are numerous other explanations put forward for the creation of these artefacts; however, evidence of human art did not become commonplace until around 50,000 years ago, after the emergence of modern Homo sapiens.[41]

The kill site at Boxgrove in England is another famous Acheulean site. Up until the 1970s these kill sites, often at waterholes where animals would gather to drink, were interpreted as being where Acheulean tool users killed game, butchered their carcasses, and then discarded the tools they had used. Since the advent of zooarchaeology, which has placed greater emphasis on studying animal bones from archaeological sites, this view has changed. Many of the animals at these kill sites have been found to have been killed by other predator animals, so it is likely that humans of the period supplemented hunting with scavenging from already dead animals.[42]

Excavations at the Bnot Ya'akov Bridge site, located along the Dead Sea rift in the southern Hula Valley of northern Israel, have revealed evidence of human habitation in the area from as early as 750,000 years ago.[43] Archaeologists from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem claim that the site provides evidence of "advanced human behavior" half a million years earlier than has previously been estimated. Their report describes an Acheulean layer at the site in which numerous stone tools, animal bones, and plant remains have been found.[44]

Azykh cave located in Azerbaijan is another site where Acheulean tools were found. In 1968, a lower jaw of a new type of hominid was discovered in the 5th layer (so-called Acheulean layer) of the cave. Specialists named this type “Azykhantropus”.[45][46][47]

Only limited artefactual evidence survives of the users of Acheulean tools other than the stone tools themselves. Cave sites were exploited for habitation, but the hunter-gatherers of the Palaeolithic also possibly built shelters such as those identified in connection with Acheulean tools at Grotte du Lazaret[48] and Terra Amata near Nice in France. The presence of the shelters is inferred from large rocks at the sites, which may have been used to weigh down the bottoms of tent-like structures or serve as foundations for huts or windbreaks. These stones may have been naturally deposited. In any case, a flimsy wood or animal skin structure would leave few archaeological traces after so much time. Fire was seemingly being exploited by Homo ergaster, and would have been a necessity in colonising colder Eurasia from Africa. Conclusive evidence of mastery over it this early is, however, difficult to find.[citation needed]