Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences

, Volume 10, Issue 5, pp 989–1006 | Cite as

Investigating interrelationships between Lower Palaeolithic stone tool effectiveness and tool user biometric variation: implications for technological and evolutionary changes

  • Alastair J.M. KeyEmail author
  • Stephen J. Lycett
Original Paper


Lower Palaeolithic hominins are thought to have been dependent upon stone tools during the acquisition and processing of food resources. Hence, it is hypothesized that the evolutionary advantages provided by efficient stone tool use may have selected for anatomical changes observed in the hand during this period. Similarly, hominin manipulative capabilities are suggested to have been of consequence to Lower Palaeolithic technological choices and tool use capabilities. The extent and character of these relationships are not, however, fully understood and it is not known whether these hypothesized co-evolutionary and co-dependent relationships are consistent across varying technological and task-type conditions. Here, six key biometric parameters of the hand are investigated in terms of their statistical relationship with cutting efficiency using both flakes and handaxes over extended periods of use and in multiple types of cutting task. Results indicate that (1) both handaxe and flake cutting efficiencies are significantly related with biometric variation of individual tool users, (2) relationships between biometric parameters and efficiency are consistent across extended durations but vary dependent upon task-type conditions, (3) manipulative strength is the most significant biometric trait in terms of predicting flake efficiency, while (4) hand size is the strongest predictor of handaxe cutting efficiency. These results demonstrate the long-term impact that stone tool use likely had on the evolution of hominin biometric variation during the Lower Palaeolithic, while also highlighting the variable influence of different tool use contexts. Most notably, results indicate that the onset of the Acheulean may have been dependent, a priori, upon hand dimensions that are close to the modern human range, and that prior to the appearance of this anatomy, handaxe use would have been an impractical (i.e. inefficient) tool use behaviour compared to the use of flakes.


Oldowan–Acheulean transition Manual proportions and dimensions Manipulative strength Experiment Handaxe Flake 



AJMK is supported through a British Academy Postdoctoral Fellowship and SJL’s work is supported by the Research Foundation for the State University of New York. We are grateful to Noreen von Cramon-Taubadel and Christopher Dunmore for helpful comments on a draft of this paper. We also thank the anonymous reviewers and Nicholas Conard for providing helpful comments during the review process.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Anthropology and ConservationUniversity of KentCanterburyUK
  2. 2.Department of AnthropologyUniversity at Buffalo, SUNYAmherstUSA

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