Bifacially worked tools in the Middle Palaeolithic make up a broad and heterogeneous group which evidently comprises a number of discrete and sharply differentiated forms. Since these forms have been fully described in earlier literature (e.g. Bordes 1961a, 1984) and pose rather fewer interpretative prob lems than some of the other types, they will be discussed here more briefly.
Forms conventionally described as 'hand axes' are distinguished essentially by four basic features: first, by a continuous pattern of bifacial trimming usually extending over most of both faces of the tools; second, by a clear pattern of bilateral symmetry centred around the long (i.e. vertical) axis of the tools; third, by a pronounced pattern of asymmetry around the horizontal axis, generally defining a more pointed or convergent upper part of the tool and a more obtuse or rounded lower part; and fourth, by a largely continuous edge running around the greater part of the tool perimeter, formed by the intersection of the flake removals from the upper and lower faces.
Defined in these terms, the various forms of hand axes encountered in Middle Palaeolithic industries appear to extend the long tradition of hand-axe manufacture from the earlier stages of the Pleistocene. The precise shapes and technology of these hand axes vary in reasonably well documented ways in different stages of the Lower and Middle Palaeolithic succession. In some of the last-glacial industries of central Europe, for example, the various forms of 'Micoquian' hand axes (Fig. 6.8) perpetuate some of the sharply pointed hand-axe forms which, in other contexts, can be traced back well into the Lower Palaeolithic sequence (for example, at La Micoque itself or at sites such as Swanscombe and Hoxne in southern Britain: Bordes 1961a, 1984; Roe 1981). In western Europe, by contrast, these more elongated and pointed hand-axe types (Fig. 4.21) are restricted largely to contexts earlier than the last glaciation, and are generally regarded as hallmarks of fully 'Acheulian' industries (Bordes 1984). Whether or not these Acheulian and Micoquian forms persisted into the last-glacial industries in, for example, northern or western France is still a largely open question (see for example Tuffreau 1971; Bordes 1984; Farizy & Tuffreau 1986).
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