Handaxes in Cuba?


From 09.02.05 to 30.03.05  a German archaeological group directed by  Prof. Müller-Beck in Cuba was executing the 1. stage of the project “The earliest settlement of Cuba” (El poblamiento mas temprano de Cuba). The scientific results will be published in an own homepage. During this successful German-Cuban partnership our Cuban colleague Raul Villavicencio Finale published his book: “Handaxes in Cuba?”, edition Capiro, ISBN 959-265-5




Villa was frequently mentioned in this homepage. He is the leader of the archaeological field-research-group, which worked together with the German group near Sagua La Grande during march 2005, where more than 100 sites in Palaeolithic tradition were found within the last years




These sites cover a 30 km long stretch following the geological strip of late Jurassic  and upper Cretaceous west and east of Sagua parallel to the coast line. Within this very dense carpet of flakes and blades in Palaeolithic tradition 19 handaxes were collected




Typical character of these handaxes: 1. selection of large flat flint-silex as raw material 2. Shaping a large handle and a broad tool with a part of one edge sharpened. The retouches round the edges of the tool are short or remove nearly the whole cortex.




The tool is used as a heavy hoe with an elaborated handle. The handle of the tool is sometimes broken off during the application. Obviously bones of big animals were taken apart. Today only one big animal lives in Cuba: the crocodile, all the others are extinct since 6000 years. This is a vague hint to the minimum age of the tool.




The knapping of the edges is in a technique we call “zick-zack”. The debitage while doing this job were typical flakes which were never found. There is no connection with the percussion technology which produced the blades and flakes of Palaeolithic tradition. The consequence is that the handaxes were produced at unknown places.




 The length of the 19 tools varies from 17 cm to 32 cm, the weight comes
       up to 4.5  kg.

        NPAV – complete tools





Villa compares the bifacial tools of Cuba with the long European tradition of Handaxes from Acheuleen to Neolithic. Quoting some archaeologists he gives the impression in his book that the presence of handaxes in Cuba can be compared with the Old World. But in his opinion it is too early to make a final decision because of lacking more information.


Comparing a handaxe of late Acheulean (300 000 B.P.) with the Hacha de mano Cubana shows  differences. Functionally the Acheulean handaxe is a tool of cutting not of smashing. Typologically the Acheuleen artifact is knapped more careful following a distinct plan of early man. It has a perfect symmetry in its axes, the oval form is  harmonic , the retouch of the edges is accurate. In contrary the Hachas de mano Cubana are more “generous”, their object is efficiency – maximum of profit with a minimum of working time. To follow a rigid norm was not their case. Similar experiences I had in the 2 months of work in Cuba in February – March 2005 when we examined  sites with thousands of flakes and blades in Palaeolithic tradition.  Compared with European processes of knapping artifacts in Palaeolithic the American way is more "liberal",  more variable,  less restrictive.



dull side - contact with rays from universe

brilliant side - contact with soil



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