Encyclopedia of Evolutionary Psychological Science

Living Edition
| Editors: Todd K. Shackelford, Viviana A. Weekes-Shackelford


  • Nicholas PrimaveraEmail author
Living reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-16999-6_330-1



A term used to classify a class of stone tools that all share a distinct oval/pear shape.


The Acheulean class of stone tools is believed to have evolved from the Oldowan stone tools as far back as 1.76 million years ago. It has many qualities that make it different from the previous generation of stone tools, which include shape, and potential use. Furthermore, it is important to note that the Acheulean class of tools “were the dominant technology for the vast majority of human history” (Tattersall 2012).

The Acheulean Class of Tools and Their Importance

Approximately 1.76 million years ago, early humans ceased to use the Oldowan class of stone tools and adapted the Acheulean class of tools. This set of tools all share a similar shape, that of an oval or pear. An important difference between this class of tools and the older Oldowan tools is the supplementation of using some form of hammer made of bone, or wood to better refine the forefront of the tool. Another difference is that these tools are often symmetrical, and they have a sharp edge on both sides. There are many types of tools associated with the class of Acheulean including cordate, pointed, ovate, ficron, and several others. It is important to note that not all Acheulean class tools were constructed from the same materials. The materials that were used to construct these tools were sourced from the type of local stones. Therefore, there is a large variability in materials used for the construction of Acheulean tools. For example, “in Western Europe, the most common type of stone used for constructing Acheulean tools is flint. In Africa, rocks such as basalt and mudstone were common” (Paddayya 1976). Furthermore, “In all cases the toolmakers worked their hand-axes close to the source of their raw materials, suggesting that the Acheulean was a set of skills passed between individual groups” (Gamble 1999). The actual manufacturing process of these tools often began with roughing out the teardrop shape of the tool with a harder rock. Afterwards, the edges of the tool would be sharpened by removing flakes of stone. This process would continue until the tool was considered satisfactory by the toolmaker. The Acheulean class of tools appear to be multipurpose in nature, and their uses would include hacking branches from trees, cutting apart hunted prey, or even removing hides from prey. Acheulean toolmakers may have held some form of social power, as knowing these skills would certainly give someone a large amount of respect and admiration within early social circles.


The Acheulean class of tools was an incredibly important piece of human development. Being the most used set of tools in human history, it is possible to further examine them to gain insight into not only early life, but perhaps early society as well.



  1. Gamble, C. (1999). Hominid ranging patterns and dietary strategies in Ullrich. In Settlement, society and cognition in human evolution: Landscapes in mind. Edition Archaea, 364–409, Retrieved 13 Jan 2017.Google Scholar
  2. Paddayya, K. (1976). Excavation of an Acheulian site at Hunsgi, South India. Current Anthropology, 17(4), 760–761.  https://doi.org/10.1086/201822.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Tattersall, I. (2012). Masters of the planet: The search for our human origins. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.Google Scholar

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© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.SUNY New PaltzNew PaltzUSA

Section editors and affiliations

  • Haley Dillon
    • 1
  1. 1.Dominican CollegeOrangeburgUSA