Over 800 ancient stone tools unearthed from an Ice Age site in Kent

These are among the largest ancient stone tools ever unearthed in Britain. 
Mrigakshi Dixit
Some of the recovered stone tool artifacts.
Some of the recovered stone tool artifacts.

Archaeology South-East/ UCL 

Archaeologists discovered a stunning collection of over 800 stone artifacts from a hillside in Britain. 

These are among the largest ancient stone tools ever unearthed in Britain. 

The stone artifacts, which date back over 300,000 years, were discovered buried in deep Ice Age sediments on a slope above the Medway Valley.

The University College London Institute of Archaeology researchers undertook this excavation work in Kent. The excavation work was done before establishing the Maritime Academy School in Frindsbury, Kent.

Unique giant handaxes 

Two "giant handaxes" stood out among the retrieved objects. The form of these big flint knives looked to be peculiar, having a sharp pointed tip and a thicker base.

Handaxes were most likely chipped on both sides to achieve a symmetrical form with a long cutting edge. In ancient days, this sort of hand-held stone tool was presumably used for slaughtering animals and chopping flesh. 

“We describe these tools as ‘giants’ when they are over 22cm long and we have two in this size range. The biggest, a colossal 29.5cm in length, is one of the longest ever found in Britain. ‘Giant handaxes’ like this are usually found in the Thames and Medway regions and date from over 300,000 years ago,” said Letty Ingrey, a senior archaeologist at the institute, in an official release

Ingrey added, "These handaxes are so big it’s difficult to imagine how they could have been easily held and used. Perhaps they fulfilled a less practical or more symbolic function than other tools, a clear demonstration of strength and skill. While right now, we aren’t sure why such large tools were being made, or which species of early human were making them, this site offers a chance to answer these exciting questions.”

Who used these?

These stone tools were most likely made by Neanderthals some thousands of years ago when they emerged in prehistoric Britain. The authors noted that other early human species might have occupied the location at the same time. They have not, however, been able to identify the specific ancient human species that utilized and constructed these tools.

Back then, the Medway Valley had a lush environment of forested hills and river basins. Prehistoric ancestors of modern animals, such as red deer, horses, and lions, lived in the area.

These newly found tools provide a chance to learn more about the lives and cultures of prehistoric humans. 

Dr. Matt Pope added: “The excavations at the Maritime Academy have given us an incredibly valuable opportunity to study how an entire Ice Age landscape developed over a quarter of a million years ago. A program of scientific analysis, involving specialists from UCL and other UK institutions, will now help us to understand why the site was important to ancient people and how the stone artifacts, including the ‘giant handaxes’ helped them adapt to the challenges of the Ice Age environments.”

Next, the research team will further examine these recovered tools to understand who made them and their usage.

The study is published in the journal Internet Archaeology.

Study abstract:

This article presents initial results from excavations at Maritime Academy, Frindsbury, which produced several handaxes, two of which can be classed as 'giant handaxes'. Artifacts were recovered from fluvial deposits in the Medway Valley and are thought to date from the Marine Isotope Stage 9 interglacial. This article focuses on the largest of these handaxes and presents metrical data for the artifact and initial comparison with similar artifacts from the British Palaeolithic.

Add Interesting Engineering to your Google News feed.
Add Interesting Engineering to your Google News feed.
message circleSHOW COMMENT (1)chevron
Job Board