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The Clactonian Question: On the Interpretation of Core-and-Flake Assemblages in the British Lower Paleolithic
Mark J. White1
In recent years, the nature, signiﬁcance, and validity of the British core-andﬂake assemblage known as the Clactonian have come under close scrutiny. More traditional ideas, which see the Clactonian as the product of a distinct, non-handax-making technical tradition, are being challenged by notions of a single European knapping repertoire in which the proportion of handaxes varies according to factors such as activity facies, local raw material potential, and landscape use. Furthermore, recent technological studies which show a basic technological parity between the Acheulean and the Clactonian, including claims for rare atypical bifaces within the Clactonian, have been argued as eroding the very rationale for seeing the Clactonian as a separate entity. These challenges have gained widespread acceptance, despite a lack of empirical support in some cases, questionable conclusions, and hints of a widely ignored, yet intriguing chronological recurrence. A review of the empirical basis and interpretation of the Clactonian, in both recent years and the recent past, suggests that the Clactonian is in danger of being explained away, rather than explained.
KEY WORDS: Lower Paleolithic; Clactonian; Acheulean; core-and-ﬂake technology; handaxes; Britain.
INTRODUCTION The European Lower Paleolithic is traditionally divided into two lithic assemblage types: assemblages with handaxes, generally assigned to the
Department of Archaeology, University of Durham, Science Site, South Road, Durham, England DH1 3LE. e-mail: email@example.com. 1
0892-7537/00/0300-0001$18.00/0 2000 Plenum Publishing Corporation
Acheulean technocomplex; and nonhandax (core-and-ﬂake) assemblages, variously interpreted as being either ﬂake- or core-tool based and known by a number of local or regional names. Assessing the meaning of these variants, examining their relationship and determining the signiﬁcance of the presence/absence of a single tool form, the handax, has dominated much Lower Paleolithic research for the better part of a century. This paper reviews the historical development and modern interpretations of the most famous of these core-and-ﬂake industries, the Clactonian. First deﬁned on artifacts collected from Clacton-on-Sea, Essex, England, during the early 1900s, the Clactonian is arguably the archetypal core-and-ﬂake assemblage for the European Lower Paleolithic (Fig. 1). Almost all other nonhandax assemblages have at one time been compared or assigned to it; it has given its name to a speciﬁc tool type—the Clactonian notch—found in numerous Lower and Middle Paleolithic contexts; and the name is still occasionally used to describe a method of ﬂaking and its products (e.g., Otte et al., 1998). Yet behind this apparent consensus lies no consensus at all. The classic deﬁnition of the Clactonian, familiar to most prehistorians, can be summarized thus. 1. The Clactonian is a technologically distinct, primitive core-and-ﬂake assemblage which contains chopper-cores and unstandardized ﬂaketools but deﬁnitively lacks handaxes. The use of anvil technique is common. 2. The Clactonian represents the earliest occupation of Britain. 3. The Clactonian represents the products of a habitually non-handaxmaking culture-group which has no close afﬁnities with the Acheulean but is related to the chopper/chopping-tool industries of Asia. 4. The Clactonian entered Britain from the east, via central Europe and Asia, and was replaced by different culture-groups (or even racial forms) from southern Europe who habitually produced handaxes. For the past 20 years this traditional interpretation has been increasingly questioned. Informed by higher-resolution Quaternary frameworks, everchanging theoretical paradigms, new discoveries, and new empirical analyses of old collections, modern generations of workers are questioning not only the orthodox interpretations and cultural designations of the Clactonian, but its very existence. Thus far, this ‘‘Clactonian debate’’ seems to have had little impact outside the shores of Britain, assuming something of a parochial air. Yet the issues at stake actually impact upon the interpretation of Middle Pleistocene core-and-ﬂake versus handax assemblages across the entire Old World, encompassing a wide variety of empirical and theoret´ ical approaches. In short, the study of the Clactonian is a virtual precis of Lower Paleolithic lithic research, both today and in the recent past.
The Clactonian Question
Fig. 1. Clactonian artifacts from the type-site at Clacton-on-Sea. (1) Notched ﬂake; (2) worked ﬂake; (3) ‘‘bill-hook’’ form; (4) side-scraper; (5) biconical core; (6) chopper-core; (7) protobiface core; (8) ﬂake; (9) denticulate; (10) bifacial denticulate. [1–4 and 6–10, after Wymer (1985), reproduced with the kind permission of J. J. Wymer; 5, after Bridgland et al. (1999), reproduced by permission of Elsevier Publishing.]
The paper is presented in three broad sections. The ﬁrst is a history of research into the Clactonian, presenting key developments in a contemporary light to engender an understanding of how critical concepts evolved in league with prevailing changes in archaeological thought to produce the deﬁnition most familiar today. This section is essential for a full appreciation
1883) during the late nineteenth century.’’ with each epoch being deﬁned on the basis of supposedly diagnostic type-fossils. 1839. and sidechoppers. simple ﬂakes and cores. The three earlier Paleolithic epochs eventually recognized in De Mortillet’s scheme—Chellean. pseudo-Mousterian trimmed ﬂakes. The ﬁnal section offers a critical appraisal of the interpretations that have been presented over the past 25 years to explain the Clactonian. The second section attempts to provide a modern synthesis of the Clactonian in view of more recent Quaternary frameworks and empirical analyses and includes a brief gazetteer of the most important Clactonian sites. unprized by collectors and therefore valueless to quarrymen. scrapers. however. So when.g. 1912–1932 The Clactonian was delivered unto an archaeological world emerging from its own infancy. extensive ﬁeld observations on the Clacton deposits by Samuel Hazzledene Warren (1911a. The ﬁrst of Warren’s (1912. Paleolithic theory was still somewhat dominated by the unilinear framework devised and modiﬁed by de Mortillet (e. This advocated a progressive cultural evolution through a series of universal ‘‘epochs. b.. as found in many cave sites. considered the most useful implements for classifying their open-air sites as well as the most aesthetically pleasing. 1872. recovered mostly from exposures of Pleistocene freshwater beds on the foreshore. By the early 1910s. many British antiquarians of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries concentrated their efforts on the accumulation of large numbers of handaxes. but that .4 White of the modern Clactonian debate. As antiquarians often amassed their collections by buying artifacts from quarry-workers. Until well into the early 1920s. in the latter years of the nineteenth century. Acheulean. Brown. THE HISTORY OF THE CLACTONIAN Genesis. p. 1912) had been rewarded by the discovery of a large collection of ﬂint artifacts and the point of a broken wooden spear.. 1898). 15) many statements on the Clacton industry noted that it was dominated by untrimmed ﬂakes.g. but later to diminish in importance and give way to a dominance of ﬁne ﬂake-tools. humanly struck ﬂakes were found in the Elephas antiquus beds at Clacton-on-Sea—deposits well known for over half a century for their rich Pleistocene fauna (e. and Mousterian—were more-or-less characterized by various expressions of the handax: seen initially to increase in sophistication. Accordingly. 1841)—they merited only a couple of lines in a local journal (Kenworthy. went largely unnoticed.
1994). or by other workers. Still. handax-bearing deposits. 1913. (Smith and Dewey. 1913). 92). 1916. 182) Comparable assemblages were subsequently found at Little Thurrock. 5 The yet in this statement shows that Warren had expected to ﬁnd handaxes eventually. the latter situated at a similar height to the Lower Gravel and Lower Loam in the Barnﬁeld Pit (Smith and Dewey. stratiﬁed below the handax-yielding Middle Gravel (Smith and Dewey.g. . As these excavations were commissioned to investigate whether the Swanscombe sequence contained a succession of handax industries similar to that found in the Somme Valley (it did). Kent. 1968)] and in the Shelly Beds at Dierden’s Pit (Ingress Vale). O. handaxes of the ordinary type were entirely wanting. 1959. p. cited by Bridgland. Swanscombe. with prominent bulbs of percussion and a minimum of ﬂaking . 1914. . The following year. Indeed. Wymer. Cynics may see this as an attempt both to match the Ingress Vale sequence with that at Barnﬁeld Pit and to reconcile the data with the Mortillean and eolithic frameworks seemingly favored by Smith (e. . it was not the overall Paleolithic character of the cores and ﬂakes that was confounding (these were even noted to resemble those from the handaxrich Middle Gravel at Barnﬁeld Pit) but the total lack of ‘‘true Palaeolithic implements’’ (Smith and Dewey. . Kerney. but Smith and Dewey suggested that they had encountered a pocket of older gravel surrounded by younger. so far as I am aware. another core-and-ﬂake assemblage was discovered in the Lower Gravel at Barnﬁeld Pit.. Wymer in about 1914 (see J. British Museum. 1914). . either by myself. Handaxes had already been reported from Ingress Vale. Essex [by B. .The Clactonian Question not a single example of the usual ovate or pointed Palaeolithic types has yet been found. The industry consisted almost exclusively of thick ﬂakes. was a surprise both as to its quantity and quality. If the initial response to these ‘‘anomalies’’ was underwhelming. Swanscombe. Later work refuted this claim. Smith and Dewey were here clearly toying with the notion that nonhandax assemblages belonged to an earlier stage of the Paleolithic than the handax ones. . p. the unexpected core-and-ﬂake industry received only scant attention: The human work . they would eventually take a central role in the changing frameworks used to . 1921) by placing all the Swanscombe core-and-ﬂake assemblages earlier than the handaxes and thus between the eolithic and the Chellean. with handax elements being found in reexposures of Smith and Dewey’s original sections and mollusks with Rhenish afﬁnities being recovered from the shell bed. In their absence he found it impossible to classify the material according to the prevailing framework and so concluded only that they were Paleolithic but not true Mousterian. the latter suggesting a correlation with the Middle Gravel at Barnﬁeld Pit rather than the Lower Gravel (Kennard.
in doing so. While he could suggest no antecedent for the Clacton–Mesvinian itself. 3. Warren (1924) also advanced the notion that different human ‘‘races’’ had created these two industrial traditions—the Clacton–Mesvinian being made by Neanderthals. Warren was deeply inﬂuenced by Breuil. 1922). 1932). 1923. During the early 1920s. 1937).6 White interpret Paleolithic materials. The Clacton–Mesvinian was a chopper-based industry. he was ﬁnally able to reach a conclusion regarding the afﬁnities of his Clacton ﬁnds and. who assigned the growing collections from Clacton to the Mesvinian. he saw it as the precursor to the Mousterian. a primitive side-branch to evolution associated with the French Mousterian. 1922. 1922). Oakley and Leakey. . 4. 1932. named after the eponymous site of Mesvin. in league with developments in later periods. 1. and (iii) other objects in the Clacton assemblage demonstrated that the makers were well acquainted with the production of large ﬂakes and so did not need those struck from the choppers. In defending his chopper interpretation against the rejoinder that they were just cores. with Levallois industries forming the evolutionary bridge between them (Warren. (ii) the ﬂakes struck from them would have been practically useless. Warren (1922) seems to have accepted this immediately. 1924). 1922. Warren (1923) suggested that the two traditions had coexisted over a long period but had followed their own unique trajectory. Warren (1932) maintained that (i) they were always ﬂaked to produce a segmental edge balanced by the hand-grip. had abandoned the monolithic Mortillean framework in favor of multiple stone tool industries that corresponded to both temporal and geographical (cultural) variation. Belgium (Warren. these choppers having zigzag alternately ﬂaked edges opposite a cortical or naturally ﬂat hand-grip (Warren. From his reading of the Thames terrace sequence. and the Chellean–Acheulean the product of contemporary humans. introduced several key concepts. 1923. He considered and rejected the idea that the Clacton–Mesvinian represented preliminary working sites where handaxes were made and then removed for use elsewhere. In a statement that was to be echoed by many later workers (Breuil. who. Warren received a ´ visit from Abbe Henri Breuil. 1926. maintaining the Clacton site to be the remnants of a living ﬂoor beside a stream where an extremely primitive industry had been produced (Warren. The Clacton–Mesvinian belonged to a separate industrial tradition from the handax cultures of the Chellean–Acheulean lineage (Warren. 1924). 2.
The Mesvinian label did not last long. p. Clactonian I and II. It was Warren (1926) who proposed the name ‘‘Clactonian’’ in a footnote after reading Breuil’s withdrawal of the Mesvinian label. Swanscombe (Chandler. subdivided the Lower Gravel material into evolutionary substages. thereby establishing a direct link between the two sites. 1930. be Mesvinian. In later writings. b). This often overlooked observation is vital in assessing several aspects of the modern debate. The position of the Clactonian was ultimately secured by Breuil (1932) in a seminal paper that effectively set the agenda for the next 40 years. the idea of a separate Clactonian industry was becoming common currency and the number of assemblages assigned to it grew. the other being more ancient and lacking platform preparation. revising his earlier opinion that the deposits at Clacton represented a tributary of the Thames and assigning them instead to the main river. Differences in their relative heights and aspects of their faunas were taken to indicate that the basal Swanscombe deposits were older than the Clacton beds—an argument putatively supported by the use of ‘‘cruder’’ techniques and the lack of small pointed forms in the Swanscombe Clactonian. 1931. and a host of other British prehistorians. who had already profoundly inﬂuenced the thinking of Warren. separated on the basis of stratigraphic position and technology. Breuil. By the early 1930s. 598). The Clacton-Mesvinian contained ‘‘clumsy pointed implements. Chandler reiterated Warren’s opinion (contra Breuil) that the Clactonian was essentially chopper-based (Chandler. Breuil. furthermore. was considered true Mesvinian. 1922. 1932a. 1931). Warren (1951) termed these ‘‘proto-bouchers’’ (protohandaxes). Warren (1932) too began comparing Swanscombe and Clacton. which was therefore considered to be the ancestral form. elected not to offer a new name for either the Clacton material or the associated Mesvin lower industry at this point. The most signiﬁcant additions came from Chandler’s studies of the Lower Gravel industries from Barnﬁeld Pit and Rickson’s Pit. Continued work on the Mesvin type-site by Breuil (1926) led him to suggest that its archaeology should actually be divided into two industries. the other fresh) with slightly contrasting characteristics (Chandler. supported the idea [or . stating that had they not been found in Clactonian contexts they would have been classiﬁed as crude handaxes. 1932a) (see Table I) and. which might be considered unsuccessful attempts to copy the Chellean implement’’ (Warren. they could not. As Breuil compared the Clacton ﬁnds with the older Mesvin series.The Clactonian Question 7 5. Chandler. which contained Levallois elements. based on the presence of two series (one abraded. Only the more recent of the two. by deﬁnition. however.
1979)] that distinct nonhandax assemblages had existed earlier than and contemporary with handax industries. 1923. 2). low ﬂaking angle) Cores Anvil-stones Notches Wymer (1968) Flakes (as for Warren. prominent bulbs. 1951) Cores Pebble chopper-cores Bi-conical chopper-cores Protohandax cores Nonstandardized ﬂake tools perhaps originated it. high ﬂaking angle. Some Key Typologies for the Clactonian Warren (1922. charting its evolution through the Gunz–Mindel and Mindel–Riss interglacials to its transformation into the early Levallois and . strong bulb. discoidal cores Choppers Pointed implements Chandler (1932a) Flakes (wide & thick. unfaceted platforms) Cores Anvils with bruised edges Choppers Rough handaxes Strepy points Nodules with ﬂakes from one or two ends Peculiar tortoise cores Oakley and Leakey (1937) Flakes (as for Chandler) Cores Nosed scrapers Trilobed hollow scrapers Discoidal and quadrilateral scrapers Triangular points Beaked points Butt endscrapers Paterson (1937) Flakes Cores Choppers and hammerstones Pointed tools Side-scrapers Single & double notches Nosed scrapers Tools made on cores Multiple tools Warren (1951) White Pointed nodule tools Choppers Ax-edged tool Discoidal forms & ﬂake disks Side-scrapers Bill-hook forms Endscrapers Calscrapers Bulb scrapers Subcrescent forms Proto-Mousterian ﬂake points Piercers Flakes (broad platform. The scheme included two major substages of the Clactonian. although some debt is owed to Hugo Obermaier (see Narr.8 Table I. 1924) Large ﬂakes Trimmed ﬂakes Cores. the evolution of which was plotted against the Penck and Bruckner (1909) Alpine glacial sequence (Fig. a pattern which directly contradicted de Mortillet’s scheme. Breuil devised an elaborate framework involving several parallel cultural phyla of handax and nonhandax industries.
] .The Clactonian Question 9 Fig. 2. [Redrawn after Breuil (1932). Breuil’s correlative framework for northwestern European handax and nonhandax assemblages.
1991). Oakley and Leakey. 1932. 1932. In Breuil’s terms. Unfortunately. metrical. 1937). It also redeﬁned the Clactonian as a ﬂake-based industry—choppers were reduced to cores—and expanded the number of sites assigned to it on a global scale. which Breuil interpreted as evidence for habitat-tracking: the different populations following their preferred ecological zones (and associated fauna) north or south in response to major climatic ﬂuctuations. 1932–1974 Breuil’s framework was well received in Britain and many workers employed it or at least a variant thereof (Sackett. Warren. 1930. 1937). More formal deﬁnitions of what constituted a Clactonian assemblage were also developed (Table I). several workers began to build typological. Almost instantaneously.. attempting to add positive features to the otherwise negative deﬁnition (e. in an archaeological world obsessed by type-fossils. assemblages with handaxes were argued to be generally associated with warm conditions but nonhandax assemblages with colder environments. but which overlapped geographically at their margins in Northern France and Southern Britain.10 White Languedocien industries of the late Mindel–Riss and Penultimate interglacials (Breuil. the Clactonian had attained international status. for too many within the archaeological . it seems peculiar that the Clactonian was for so long deﬁned purely by their absence. King and Oakley. 1951. Consequently. 1932). deploying artifact types and attributes that were supposedly rarely if ever found in the Acheulean. 1936. see McNabb (1996b) for a summary of the stratigraphic gymnastics necessitated by the use of typological dating during this period and views on how data were manipulated to force them into accepted frameworks]. and technological parameters around the Clactonian. Typological seriation of lithic assemblages combined with concepts of separately evolving cultures provided archaeologists with a powerful if dubious dating mechanism and a seductive interpretative tool [(e.. Culture History and Orthodoxy. Paterson. Warren. This practice enhanced the primitive theme and included the idea that the Clactonian was produced by the clumsy block-on-block anvil technique (Breuil.g. the Clactonian and Acheulean represented different populations whose main ‘‘territories’’ were Northeast and Southwest Europe.g. 1937). 1932. Chandler. In the latter areas. respectively. Oakley and Leakey. Paterson. Indeed. 1936. This occasionally led to the stratiﬁcation of interglacial assemblages with handaxes above late glacial/ early interglacial nonhandax industries in the marginal areas. deﬁning an early phase in the development of a major Paleolithic cultural lineage.
31). Gregory. [Ironically. The Clactonian had come of age and was running amok. Wymer. but . 1938). remained suspicious of these serial subdivisions (Hawkes et al. though. Excavations at Jaywick Sands. 1940. High Lodge is now known to be pre-Anglian (Ashton et al. Warren. 1992b) and. 1937). 1975).. while skeptics of the cultural status of the Clactonian (e. The 1930s and 1940s saw several major British archaeologists become heavily involved in the constant juggling and shufﬂing of assemblages into some sort of perceived order of events using stratigraphic. 1933. This conclusion was roundly rejected the following year by the Swanscombe Committee (Hawkes et al. Concepts of interaction and acculturation between cultures encouraged deeper levels of interpretation. Paterson (1937) presented details of ﬁve local variants (the Brecklandian Clactonian) separable by context.. thus. with another present in the Lower Loam. which showed a progressive development in technique uncontaminated by other cultures. Paterson and Fagg (1940) found an assemblage consisting of abundant ﬂakes and cores. At Barnham St. but irrefutable markers. with Clacton itself being IIb. while the type-site (IIb) was argued to be more reﬁned and to have witnessed the development of more ‘‘resolved’’ secondary working. Palmer.g.. arbitrarily dividing ‘‘mixed’’ assemblages into Clactonian and Acheulean elements based on the morphological properties of the ﬂakes and cores (e. these deﬁnitions were seen not as rules of thumb. and typology.g. Paterson and Fagg.. dividing the Lower Gravel material into three distinct Clactonian industries. At Elveden. 1951).The Clactonian Question 11 community of the 1930s onward. van Riet Lowe. 1946) were largely overlooked. Caton-Thompson.. a progression toward High Lodge (Clactonian III). Suffolk. Lacaille. Clacton (Oakley and Leakey. separable mostly by size and condition. and typological comparisons combined with an ingrained idea of cultural progression. the task was to chart its true development and relationships so that a concrete culturehistory could eventually be written. 1938. Suffolk. p. who assigned the entirety of the Lower Gravel material to a single group. even though there was no hint of technological development in the Clacton sequence itself. 1932. Smith. 1937. condition. Swanscombe was considered to contain the oldest assemblages (Clactonian I and IIa). 1956. with its elaborate ‘‘Mousterian-type’’ scrapers. older than both Swanscombe and Clacton. Clactonian IIa. technological. Few heeded the tacit warnings that not all Clactonian ﬂakes shared the same features and that similar pieces could be found in Acheulean assemblages (Kelley. For the next 40 years. Warren. archaeologists would see Clactonian inﬂuences everywhere.] Marston (1937) produced a different scheme for Swanscombe. 1941. There was no doubt that the Clactonian was real. resulted in a fourfold scheme for the Clactonian. These were overlain by an Acheulean that had exercised no inﬂuence on the Clactonian peoples.
1951) further eroded the validity of the evolutionary schema devised for Europe. lacking a life-long familiarity with these techniques. Continuing work in Africa (e. There was also growing awareness that in Asia. core-and-ﬂake working and simple scraper production were seen as deﬁnitive Clactonian traits. Central and Eastern Europe handaxes were extremely rare if not totally absent (Obermaier. revealing not only very ancient nonhandax assemblages in East Africa. 1996b). the Choukoutien–Soan complex. 1992). but the possible in situ development and evolution of the Acheulean out of these.. long deemed problematic because its ‘‘highly advanced Mousterian’’ afﬁnities could not be reconciled with its stratigraphic location (beneath an Acheulean industry) (Ashton et al. In addition. 1894) were attributed to Clactonian III.12 White with a number of elegant handaxes. had applied them in a inefﬁcient. questioning the contemporaneity of different industries as well as their internal evolution (McNabb. Oakley (1949) formalized the notion (previously voiced by Paterson. 1937). McBurney.. regardless of warnings to the contrary. Again. Within Breuil’s framework. but with a strong Acheulean inﬂuence: a proposal in no small part related to Worthington Smith’s diligence in collecting ﬂakes and cores (see below). 1948. By implication. 1950). during which the familiar image of the Clactonian began to crystallize. A similar argument could also explain the High Lodge scraper industry (Clactonian III). these industries no longer had to be evolutionarily linked but could have simply coexisted. Movius. High Lodge could therefore have been be a site where ideas and techniques had blended or a hunting ground used by two distinct culture-groups (Oakley and Leakey. Bordes (1950) pioneered an analytical method that emphasized whole assemblages above type-fossils. 1996b). The . Leakey.g. 1945) that the Clactonian was related to the pebble-tool cultures of Asia. They termed this the Clactonian– Acheul (or Upper Brecklandian Acheul) and envisaged a scenario where Acheulean knappers had borrowed Clactonian core-working and retouching techniques but. For Warren (1951). No assemblage was spared. In this light. The 1950s mark something of a watershed. the idea that the Clactonian actually represented the earliest occupation of the British Isles that had not coexisted with handax cultures was becoming widely accepted (Oakley. Improved dating and geological techniques began to highlight problems with tool-based sequences. Africa was increasingly seen as the center of human biological and cultural evolution (McNabb. this provided the answer to a question posed over 25 years earlier (Warren. 1924. Even the handax-rich industries from Stoke Newington and Caddington (Smith. 1961). 1924): From where had the Clactonian originated? It also supported his claim that the Clactonian was essentially a chopper-based industry. inferior manner.
Wymer (1974) presented a cogent argument for the primacy of the Clactonian within the British Paleolithic sequence. but that the Clactonian had spread from the east. By 1974. . he could ﬁnd no justiﬁcation for any evolutionary subdivisions within the Clactonian (Wymer.and early temperate periods (pollen subzones HoI-IIb). Clacton. Empirical developments also began to erode some of the most cherished beliefs about the Clactonian. 1981). deriving from cultures of Central Europe and Asia (see also Roe. However. The fate of the ‘‘primitive’’ and now archaic Clactonian. the paucity of evidence of pre-Anglian occupation. making such overlap less likely. and the hint of a late Anglian occupation as represented by the rolled Clactonian specimens in the Swanscombe Lower Gravels (Clactonian I) were critical pieces of evidence supporting this view (Wymer. While a large number of sites remained only loosely dated. 1949. like Warren. However. in a review of the chronology and signiﬁcance of the Clactonian using only the evidence from the excavated sites of Hoxne. 1968). many workers began to see the Clactonian as a problem that required radical rethinking. by the late 1970s the shock-waves of processual archaeology ﬁnally reached the Clactonian. Wymer argued that the Clactonian had ﬁrst appeared in the late Anglian or Earliest Hoxnian. The past 25 years have witnessed many changes to both our empirical understanding and our interpretations of the Clactonian. although a later revision (Wymer. Rejecting the then meager evidence for pre-Anglian occupation. The cultural–historical interpretations that had been revised and modiﬁed during the previous 50 years were increasingly seen as theoretically unsatisfactory. in this reading. and was replaced by Acheulean industries just before the late temperate (HoIIc). A period of overlap and perhaps direct competition was hypothesized (Wymer. However. 1974). he suggested reassigning the Clactonian to a seasonal or local activity facies of the Acheulean. 1959a. Wymer (1968) also supported the view that the Acheulean had entered Britain from the south. Oakley (1964) later changed tack entirely: impressed by research on the Hope Fountain nonhandax industry of southern Africa (Jones. ultimately originating in Africa. Clark. 1968). and Swanscombe.The Clactonian Question 13 stratiﬁed cultural sequences at Barnham and Swanscombe. For the ﬁrst time since 1922. the general chronology proposed by Wymer ﬁtted the available evidence well. 1983) assigned the earliest in situ Acheulean at Hoxne to the late temperate (HoIIIb). existed throughout the pre. all of the tenets of the familiar in not classic deﬁnition of the Clactonian were in place. interpreted as a woodworking variant of the Acheulean. was assimilation by the more sophisticated later ‘‘Acheulean’’ migrants rather than evolution into other industries. b).
. Ohel (1979) concluded that. scrapers. somewhat haphazard anvil technique. Wymer. 1992) concluded . many of the metrical attributes used reveal little about the actual technologies employed in the two assemblage types. cores) occurred in both Clactonian and Acheulean assemblages (e. and high incidences of mishits or other knapping errors. could be sustained. 1979. McNabb’s (1992) comprehensive technological analysis of large well-documented/excavated assemblages produced the same conclusions. However. Arguably. There were no tangible technological differences between the cores and the ﬂakes found in Clactonian and Acheulean assemblages. Clactonian cores are commonly perceived as technologically crude (especially compared to handaxes). 1979). 1992. in his metrical analysis of 9 Clactonian and 14 Acheulean assemblages. 1979. Ashton and McNabb. From this perspective. 1951. These results are no doubt valid and go some way to addressing certain aspects of the classic technotypological deﬁnition. 1996b). 1961. demonstrates a naıve appreciation of the archaeological record. this image was developed in an essentially theory-led manner. large unfaceted butts. and no single or group of technological features could be used to characterize Clactonian artifacts. especially when compared to the Acheulean. Clactonian ﬂakes are characterized as being ‘‘heavy’’ and thick. Keeley. cf. However. Wymer. McNabb (1992. Early warnings that similar core-working techniques and virtually identical end products (ﬂakes. 1937. 74). Wenban-Smith. where the emphasis is on the more sophisticated handaxes themselves (Roe. apparently reﬂecting the use of the simplistic. Bordes. Newcomer. This primitive motif is reinforced by the apparent low frequencies of such simple ﬂakes and cores in handax assemblages. 1981. obtuse ﬂaking angles. with exaggerated percussion features. Newcomer. but at two standard errors a high degree of overlap is probably inevitable (Wymer. and ¨ is inherently ﬂawed (McNabb. 1968. other than those resulting from collection bias. Warren. p.g. Similarly.14 White A MODERN SYNTHESIS A Primitive Technology? The Clactonian is still often regarded as a typologically and technologically primitive industry displaying inferior technique and skill. 1996). similar metrical overlap could probably be demonstrated between Clactonian debitage and that in the Oldowan or even aspects of the Neolithic (cf. 1971) were expressed more to prevent the uncritical application of prevalent deﬁnitions than explicitly to question the validity of the Clactonian as a whole. there was signiﬁcant overlap between many aspects of ﬂakes and cores from the two assemblage types and that no differences. Furthermore. at two standard errors.
1949. cores may genuinely be less frequent on some Acheulean sites (such as Boxgrove) because the by-products of handax manufacture could fulﬁll most needs. standardized scrapers in Acheulean assemblages. handax manufacture results in a large number of perfectly serviceable ﬂakes that hominids could have used instead of those produced during core reduction. This ‘‘mixing’’ of elements is probably what led to these sites being labeled Clactonian III (e. This idea was almost certainly linked to the belief that the anvil technique. while in Clactonian contexts similar practices probably favored heavy cores and ﬂakes: both of which helped to fuel if not self-fulﬁll the classic deﬁnitions. p. the actual frequencies of cores in both situations are extremely variable (McNabb. then it is a case of like not being compared with like. whereby a hand-held nodule was freely swung against a stationary anvil. with especially large examples sometimes coming from the roughing-out stage (Newcomer. The ﬂakes generated by these two activities are fundamentally different. dealing with is a universal repertoire of coreworking techniques. The only supportable differences were typological. namely. 74) is very likely to be a product of two simple factors. McNabb (1992) has further questioned the identiﬁcation of anvils at Clactonian sites. 1992). but. 1894). The frequency in Acheulean assemblages of both these elements was found to be highly variable.g. First. So. However. Warren. in Acheulean contexts early collection biases usually led to handaxes being collected at the expense of everything else. was technically inferior to the use of a hand-held hammerstone (McNabb. amassed large collections which included handaxes along with abundant cores and ﬂakes (Smith. produced by a totally different technological process to hard-hammer core working. like handaxes. The apparent paucity of simple core-and-ﬂake working from collections of Acheulean material (e. 1981. however. Of course. 1986). . where Worthington Smith. if this was the stem of the perceived contrasts. 1992). 1951). the presence of handaxes and. experimental work has demonstrated that the use of a hammer-stone not only produces ‘‘Clactonian-style’’ ﬂakes more easily and more safely but that the anvil technique tends to produce ﬂakes with small bulbs and ﬂat ventral surfaces—wholly ‘‘un-Clactonian’’ in fact (Baden-Powell. in fact.g. Bradley and Sampson. Warren. more tentatively.. that persisted in Britain from the earliest occupation down to the introduction of Levallois and probably beyond. common to both handax and nonhandax industries. Second. 1951. 1978. handaxes are usually accompanied by handax thinning ﬂakes. a particularly careful collector who recognized the importance of retaining everything from a site.The Clactonian Question 15 that what we are. 1971. 1970). Newcomer. Roe. The preferential use of the anvil technique in the Clactonian must also be rejected. This is well illustrated by the situation at Caddington and Stoke Newington..
this chopper element is open to some doubt. They are also found in British Acheulean assemblages. as shown by McNabb’s own work. some of the central deﬁning features of the Clactonian must be rejected as unsupportable. In summary. and perhaps also the morphology of the scrapers. 1992a). There may. However. was convinced that. McNabb uses this as evidence that the Clactonian does not exist. 1930) (see Fig. then. In reality. being artifacts of subjective assessments of technological features and various sampling problems. be real differences in the frequency of a technique or the way in which it was applied. not found surprising. the Clactonian can be deﬁned solely on the absence of handaxes. ‘‘crude pointed implements’’ have always been a recognized element. Handaxes in the Clactonian? While handaxes are then. depending on individual skill or raw materials. However. It can be argued that this core-working/ﬂake production was restricted by a ‘‘rule of limited possibilities’’ (Rolland. basic hard-hammer core working is the universal cornerstone of all Lower Paleolithic lithic technology—the underlying common denominator. Warren (1951). for one. such a perspective leaves the Clactonian with a largely negative deﬁnition: a generalized core-and ﬂake industry that lacks formal tools such as handaxes and standardized scrapers but that may contain choppers. although this again is related to the occurrence of handaxes. There may. often being described as poor imitations of handaxes by peoples unaccustomed to making such tools (Warren.16 White stating that most are in rolled condition. suggesting that gross similarities between the core-related debitage and knapping techniques seen in Acheulean and Clactonian assemblages should actually be expected. although the latter requires further research. 1981) in which single. if found in Acheulean . regarded as being absent from the Clactonian. parallel. however. making it difﬁcult to determine whether any localized areas of battering are artiﬁcial or purely natural. be a difference in the use of soft versus hard hammers. 3). In other words. Unfortunately. A recent experimental investigation concluded that they were most probably just waste-products of ﬂake production and not deliberately fashioned tools (Ashton et al. by deﬁnition. 1922. as shown by the conﬂicting interpretations of the past.. though. within the prevalent technological parameters these basic techniques were practically unavoidable. 1996a) practically exhausted the range of hard-hammer percussion technology without recourse to more specialized techniques such as Levallois. and alternate ﬂaking using multiple platforms (Ashton and McNabb. Chandler.
Swanscombe. Rickson’s Pit. after Chandler (1930). reproduced with the kind permission of the Trustees of the British Museum. 4.] . (1.The Clactonian Question 17 Fig. [1 and 3. after Ashton and McNabb (1994). (2) (?)Lower Gravel. reproduced by permission of the Lithics Studies Society. after Conway (1996). 3. drawings by Phil Dean British Museum. Swanscombe. 2 and 5. 5) Lower Gravel. Barnﬁeld Pit. (4. Little Thurrock. Nonclassic bifaces. 3) Bed 2.
possibly genuine None White Barnﬁeld Pit. originally in channel? From foreshore. c a.(s. Lion Point ? Rolled Clacton. Lion Point Nonclassic Rolled Clacton. Swanscombe Barnﬁeld Pit. e a. Handaxes in the Clactonian Original context Unknown Unknown ?Over context ?Over context ?Over context ?Over context None. originally in channel? From foreshore. etc. c c. Lion Point Nonclassic on pebble Very rolled Unknown context.)a Provenance Type Condition Clacton-on-Sea. West Cliff Foreshore Clacton. Swanscombe Nonclassic Slightly rolled e . 1929 Clacton. 1903 Point Rolled Clacton Foreshore.’’ Unknown Missing Missing British Museum BM (Marston) BM (Dewey) None BM (Chandler) c. vague provenance Unknown context Ovate Rolled Clacton. h d e d ‘‘Pseudochellean form’’ (?nonclassic) ‘‘Rude ovate’’ (?nonclassic) Nonclassic ? Fresh ?Over context. h Ashmolean Museum b. originally in channel? ‘‘Freshwater deposits with E. West Cliff Elephas antiquus bed Lower Gravel ? Lower Gravels Lower Gravels ? From foreshore. h c. g Problems Location Ref. West Cliff ‘‘Rude handax’’ (?nonclassic) ? Clacton. Swanscombe Barnﬁeld Pit. but no longer extant ?Over context Rickson’s Pit. antiquus. originally in channel? From foreshore. Lion Point Nonclassic Rolled Clacton. no longer extant None. c a. but no longer extant Missing BM (Warren) Missing BM (Warren) Ipswich Museum Ipswich Museum b b.18 Table II. Swanscombe Ovate Fresh Nonclassic Fresh Contradictory reports regarding context.
1979. 1996b. (e) McNabb. (b) Wymer. k. m ?Over context BM (Chandler) e Slightly rolled Lower Gravels None BM (Chandler) e Nonclassic Slightly rolled Barnﬁeld Pit.. (m) Waechter. (d) Ashton and McNabb. ?fallen from Middle Gravel ?Over association with Clactonian in Bed 1 ?Over association with Clactonian in Bed 1 None. BM. caused change in assemblage attribution a (a) Roe. 1992. (j) Ohel. 19 . 1994. (g) Leeds. 1996. (k) Newcomer. 1996. Swanscombe Barnﬁeld Pit. (f) Conway. 1968. l. 1930. 1979. Swanscombe Barnﬁeld Pit. (l) Conway et al. (h) Warren archive. Swanscombe Bed 2a Bed 2 Cobble band British Museum British Museum British Museum f f n Ovate Fresh The Clactonian Question Little Thurrock Nonclassic Fresh Little Thurrock Nonclassic Fresh Barnham Ovate Fresh Contradictory reports regarding context.Nonclassic ? ? BM (Waechter) j. 1969. 1985. 1998. (c) McNabb and Ashton. (n) Ashton.
at one end of which are situated the familiar ‘‘classic’’ forms. only seven have anything approaching a ﬁrm provenance. most would have been accepted as rough handaxes. Before the Clactonian is consigned into oblivion. sites where handaxes are absent or occur only as rare nonclassic forms (i. According to these authors. Again. furthermore. McNabb. ranging from those where handaxes and handax production dominate to the exclusion of almost everything else to those where these form only a minor component. but a ﬂexible mental construct that ranged from the most reﬁned ‘‘classic’’ to the coarsest ‘‘nonclassic. Ashton and McNabb (1994) have recently argued that this perspective is based on an inadequate and narrow deﬁnition of the handax. Such nonclassics are found at varying frequencies in virtually all Acheulean assemblages. This was apparently never seen as a problem: such pieces were always crude and ill formed. rather than a distinct assemblage type. those termed Clactonian) should be considered as the extreme end of this continuum. 1992. They maintain that handaxes occur within a broad continuum of variation.’’ with much of this variation explicable in terms of different raw materials and human idiosyncrasy (Ashton and McNabb. 1996. This suggests that another of the deﬁning characteristics of the Clactonian is based on erroneous archaeological systematics and that the nonclassic handaxes found in the Clactonian should be regarded as essentially identical to the more familiar classic forms of the Acheulean: several of which are. while typical handax thinning ﬂakes were notably absent. 1996a) (Table II). Ashton and McNabb (1994) detect another continuum in the actual frequency of handaxes within Acheulean sites. but which otherwise do not really demonstrate the deliberate imposition of a preconceived template.. Accordingly. while at the other end lie ‘‘nonclassic bifaces. also claimed to occur at some Clactonian sites (Ashton and McNabb. 1998).e. this shows that handax manufacture was operationalized not according to strict mental templates. 1994). totally dissimilar to the well-made.’’ The latter term relates to pieces which show some bifacial edge shaping and durable cutting edges. 1994. Wenban-Smith. White. and in very small numbers in Clactonian ones (Table II). McNabb and Ashton. As shown in Table II. it should be noted that the precise provenance of many of the claimed Clactonian handaxes must be regarded as uncertain (cf. None of the ‘‘handaxes’’ from . usually among larger numbers of classic forms. 1994. while still fewer of the pieces from either Clacton or the Swanscombe Lower Gravel can be accepted without question. the Clactonian is argued to be invalid as a separate industry. symmetrical tools common in Acheulean assemblages. as implied in the traditional concept of the handaxe (Ashton and McNabb.20 White contexts. 1998).
few unequivocal. 1998). nonclassic handaxes occur alongside more classic forms. In these cases. can a ﬁrm case be made for reconsidering previous cultural claims (Ashton et al. b. where several handax manufacturing scatters. a ferrous hard-pan at the junction of the lower gravel and the brickearth that may mark an erosional surface (Conway. nonclassics are regarded as ‘‘rude or erratic’’ (Smith. while the bifaces came from within or just beneath Bed 2a. all were collected from contexts or in circumstances which cast doubt on their original provenance. handaxes seem to have been manufactured according to a very poorly maintained construct. 1998). rather than a discrete phenomenon. though. Table II contains only 19 entries. they have not removed it.The Clactonian Question 21 either of these sites was recovered in situ during controlled excavations. an ovate. showing that the peoples responsible for these industries had a broad and ﬂexible approach to the socially maintained and transmitted mental and technological construct of the handax. which could be modiﬁed to meet the contingencies of the situation (White. and besides. If nothing else. Fig. and a broken butt were recovered from precisely the same context as the old Clactonian collections. In Acheulean assemblages. 1894) and generally explained as being the work of novices or the unskilled. Only the pieces from Little Thurrock and Barnham St. When present.11). producing artifacts that really qualify as bifaces by virtue of a minimum of bifacial working along an expedient edge. we must still explain why. Only at Barnham. handaxes of the classic type are apparently absent and why their proposed substitute. The relationship between the archaeological material from these two beds is thus extremely unclear. there are a few undoubted examples of nonclassic bifaces . But what of these nonclassics? While I agree fully with Ashton and McNabb’s (1994) basic principles concerning a continuum of variation. the nonclassic. One should also remember that the notion that the Clactonian is the extreme end of a continuum of variation in handax frequency and expression. both of the handaxes are nonclassics. 1996). In summary. Ashton. the Clactonian material is from throughout Bed 1 (Wymer. is so rare. In the case of Little Thurrock. in some Lower Paleolithic contexts. Conway. Gregory are from ﬁrm excavated contexts. 1994a. 1957. David Bridgland. personal communication). 1996. 3. is itself an interpretation and should not be taken as concrete evidence that the Clactonian is not a valid industry. This does not seem to be the case for the Clactonian. pieces made in haste or those which conform absolutely to the shape of the raw materials. Other authors interpret identical pieces as cores (see Vishnyatsky. The critical point is that larger numbers of ‘‘better’’ handaxes always coexist with these rude forms.. 1999. by redeﬁning the handax they have only reformulated an old problem.
. 1933. The Corpus of Clactonian Sites McNabb’s (1992) conclusions regarding the technological parity between Clactonian and Acheulean core and ﬂake working demand that archaeologists abandon the practice of dividing assemblages into different cultural units based on the technotypological traits of debitage. There is. Essex (Wymer. 1968). Highlands Farm. Reading (Wymer.. Croxley Green. which McNabb (1996b) sees as a stubborn unwillingness among British prehistorians to abandon the Clactonian. 1968). that a single handax in a ﬁrm context can radically alter the industrial afﬁnity of an assemblage does serve to highlight the fragility of a system that appeals to negative evidence. it is therefore necessary to dismiss virtually out-of-hand those sites where a mixture of two assemblage types has been claimed simply on the presence of both ‘‘Clactonian-style’’ debitage and Acheulean handaxes. it is thus very difﬁcult to identify nonhandax assemblages and the proportion of assemblages assigned to the Acheulean may be artiﬁcially high. Denton’s Pit. 2000). an unfortunate consequence to this: it is impossible to separate genuine nonhandax assemblages from handax assemblages should they become mixed (by natural agencies or due to poor stratigraphic control in older collections) in remotely similar condition. but the claims for classic forms must be treated with more caution. 1985. Hertfordshire (Wymer. they be regarded as ‘‘pending inquiry. even if that evidence might be archaeologically meaningful. Roe. Sites or assemblages which fall into this category include Purﬂeet Middle Gravel. i. However. There has indeed been a reticence to accept these.’’ I also consider it arguable whether the occurrence of a few nonclassics is sufﬁcient to demonstrate complete parity between the technotypological repertoires of the makers of Acheulean and Clactonian assemblages. and Yiewsley. Oxfordshire (Wymer.e.22 White from Clactonian contexts. Kent (Smith. in itself (especially in secondary context assemblages). though. 1981). Middlesex (Collins. As the presence of a single handax or group of handax-manufacturing ﬂakes would usually demand an Acheulean label. might suggest that handaxes were never available to be incorporated. 1978). Schreve et al. I do not wish to argue these pieces away but would suggest that until something more concrete and less anecdotal is forthcoming. Nonhandax assemblages may exist only in a few fortuitous cases where later mixing did not occur: a situation that. generally those that featured in the original worker’s deﬁnitions. such as major contrasts in condition. 1968). were not made by the groups . Unless a valid difference can be identiﬁed. Fordwich.
e. Golf Course. the Hoxnian interglacial (Bridgland. the corollary of such a proposition is that many assemblages deemed to be Acheulean may in fact be mixed. Clacton. If this is considered valid. Humberside (Bridgland and Thomas. Jaywick Sands. When compared only to well-stratiﬁed. and Holiday Camp (Figs. overlain by the Estuarine Beds. The number of sites listed below might seem insigniﬁcant compared to the many hundreds of known Acheulean ﬁnd-spots. an appeal to negative evidence that will not satisfy everybody. The main channel. then only a small number of assemblages can be considered. This debitage-based problem is unresolvable given our present state of knowledge but does not alter the basic division based on handaxes. or at least classic handaxes. incised into London Clay and Lower Holland Gravel.. the proportion of Clactonian sites is more signiﬁcant. and not an artifact of sampling (see below). This reinforces the view that the Clactonian must be based entirely on the absence of handaxes. of which there are many such occurrences (see Roe. The Clacton deposits represent a series of Middle Pleistocene channels of the Thames. Essex [Collections from Exposures at Lion Point. Evidence of periglacial processes in the sequence from the Golf Course Site suggests that sedimentation began during the late Anglian (Singer et al. while the overall pollen proﬁle demonstrates aggradation throughout most of the ensuing interglacial. 1981). including obliteration by ice sheet and very small population densities in restricted enclaves. or Kirmington. Reading (Wymer. 1994). West Cliff. over 400 m wide and attaining a maximum depth of 15 m. but these might equally apply to the Acheulean. adhering to the same standards used in selecting the sample below). Groveland’s Pit. personal communication). Ohel (1979) suggests other reasons for the small numbers of Clactonian sites. the Upper Freshwater Beds being assigned to biozone Ho IIb–IIIa. making comparisons between many ‘‘Acheulean’’ and ‘‘Clactonian’’ assemblages fundamentally problematic (Nick Ashton. owing mostly to the age and nature of the investigations. possibly genuine Clactonian assemblages [perhaps. 1968).. and well-documented Acheulean assemblages (i. They are considered to be part of the Boyn Hill/Orsett Heath Formation (and its downstream equivalents) and are correlated with OIS 11. but this is a specious comparison. but few would accept a Clactonian designation based on a handful of hardhammer ﬂakes or a core. the Estuarine Beds to later . On the other hand. 1968). 1973). basically comprises the Freshwater Beds (divided into Lower and Upper units). well-excavated. 4a–c)]. for example.The Clactonian Question 23 concerned. 1999)] must be presently disregarded due to stratigraphic uncertainties and a general paucity of information (Roe. In other cases. In addition to the issue of mixing noted above. the fact remains that within present systematics only one classic handax is necessary to create an Acheulean assemblage.
4. (c) Section through main Clacton Channel.24 White A B Fig. reproduced by permission of Elsevier Publishing. (1999). as exposed at the West Cliff. Clacton. (a) Clacton location map showing distribution of Pleistocene deposits and various exposures. [All after Bridgland et al. (b) Schematic section through Clacton area showing channel occurrences.] . with modiﬁcations.
broadly correlated with the Lower Freshwater Beds at Clacton and Lower Gravel at Swanscombe. 1998). A mammalian fauna. with a developed Rhenish Suite and the appearance of marine mollusks along with brackish/marine ﬁsh occurring later. Lower Gravel and Lower Loam. Meijer and Preece. Swanscombe. 1995. 5)].The Clactonian Question 25 C Fig. and faunal assemblages are well . the richest concentrations occurring in the upper part of the Lower Freshwater Beds (Wymer. have been recovered from the Freshwater Beds at most Clacton localities. 1971. has also been recovered from these deposits. Kent [Barnﬁeld Pit. palynological. Clactonian artifacts.. Both artifacts and mammalian remains are rare in the Estuarine Beds (Wymer. 1997. 1985). Parﬁtt. 1999). 1971). Bridgland et al. A diverse molluscan fauna shows the arrival of the Rhenish suite beginning in the uppermost Freshwater Beds. considered to represent an early Hoxnian suite (Schreve. in the Estuarine Beds (Turner and Kerney. Continued Ho IIIa onward (Turner and Kerney. Bridgland (1994. personal communication) suggests that these deposits are part of the Asheldham Channel Gravel. 1985). Warren (1932) and Oakley and Leakey (1937) also noted the presence of sparse Clactonian artifacts in gravel at Burnham-on-Crouch. 4. Lower Gravel (Fig. Rickson’s Pit. The Swanscombe deposits and their contained archaeological. in both primary and secondary contexts.
Summary section of Pleistocene deposits and their contained archaeology at Barnﬁeld Pit.] . with modiﬁcations. Swanscombe. reproduced with the kind permission of the Trustees of the British Museum. [After Conway et al. (1996).26 White Fig. 5.
grossly ﬁning-upward ﬂuvial sequence spanning the entire Hoxnian interglacial (OIS 11). while a controversial pollen proﬁle from Swanscombe has assigned the Lower Loam to pollen subzone IIb (Hubbard. (1985) divided this sequence into three broad aggradational phases: Phase I (Lower Gravel and Lower Loam). Ashton and McNabb. 1971. Bridgland. 1932. These yielded a rich mammalian fauna. Turner and Kerney. 1997. 1994). Waechter. The presence of a fully developed Rhenish molluscan suite in the Phase II deposits facilitates further correlation with the Clacton sequence. correlated with late OIS 10 and OIS 9 (Bridgland and Harding. 1996). 1969). Globe Pit. although those in the Phase II deposits show signiﬁcant differences. King and Oakley.. Schreve. some suggestive of an episode of cooler. 1994). 1995). Roe 1981. 6)]. Rich interglacial molluscan and mammalian faunas have been recovered from most units. in the light . Bridgland. Meijer and Preece. the brickearths there are a continuation of the fossiliferous brickearths at Grays Thurrock. but mostly in situ with reﬁtting sequences in the Lower Loam—while Phases II and III have yielded rich Acheulean assemblages in primary and secondary contexts (Smith and Dewey. On the basis of altitude and local correlation.. The faunal assemblages from the Phase I deposits are equated with those from the Clacton Freshwater Beds (Kerney. 1996. must. Conway et al. 1964. 1971. Although no faunal remains have been recovered from Globe Pit itself. 1968. Little Thurrock. once considered indicative of an Ipswichian date (West. The sequence at Rickson’s Pit is a lateral continuation of the Barnﬁeld section and shows a broadly similar archaeological succession from Clactonian to Acheulean industries. Bridgland. Wymer. 1970. 1968. The Phase I deposits contain only Clactonian material—mostly in secondary context in the Lower Gravel.. 1996b). more open conditions (Conway et al. 1973. Bridgland. 1997). assigned by Schreve (1997) to OIS 9.The Clactonian Question 27 known and described in detail elsewhere (Wymer. A poor pollen proﬁle from Little Thurrock. Some controversy has surrounded the age of this site. 1936. 1994. probably equating with the Estuarine beds (Kerney. 1998). Bridgland et al. 1993. 1913. Essex [Bed 1 (Fig. Phase II (Lower Middle and Upper Middle Gravel). Waechter.g. and Phase III (Upper Loam and Upper Gravel). particularly concerning the reconciliation of its position in the Thames terrace staircase with its contained archaeology (e. This site is situated at a lower terrace level than Swanscombe and on the north side of the Thames. although it generally lacks the loams found at the latter site and is considered less complex overall (Dewey. the deposits have most recently been assigned to the Lynch Hill/Corbets Tey Formation. Schreve. 1996). 1971. Wymer. 1971. 1994). Parﬁtt. The deposits are part of the highest post-Anglian terrace of the Thames (Boyn Hill/Orsett Heath Formation) and represent a single.
] White . J. with modiﬁcations. Section through the Pleistocene deposits at Globe Pit.28 Fig. [After Wymer (1985). Little Thurrock. Wymer. 6. reproduced with the kind permission of J.
Conway. represent Thames deposits of the Corbets Tey/Lynch Hill Formation. while Acheulean material is claimed to be present in a separate gravel overlying the brickearth (Wymer. was the main source of raw materials throughout the human occupation of the site. These data. 1989). with three broadly ﬁning-upward sequences. 1957. thus making the relationship between the archaeology in Bed 1 and that in the top of Bed 2 very dubious. Schreve et al. even if the two are a single deposit. The sediments at Bluelands and Greenlands Pits. 234). There is some confusion regarding the relationship between Bed 1 and Bed 2: Bridgland (1994. ﬂakes. 2000). Gregory. 1994) considers them to be part of the same gravel. Schreve et al. now somewhat controversially. suggest that the nonhandax material belongs to late OIS 10/early OIS 9. Barnham St. Bridgland and Harding. Snelling. Bridgland (personal communication) has suggested that the top of Bed 2. although it was probably periodically inundated by water.. A shelly sand below the Middle Gravel has produced an interglacial mammalian fauna. The molluscan assemblage from the shelly bed is consistent with this. 1994. Purﬂeet. 7)]. Paterson (1937) . 1985. This is ﬁlled to a depth of 7 m with fossiliferous interglacial clays and silts. is an erosional surface. comparable with that at Little Thurrock. 1998). Bridgland and Harding. 2000) to represent a diagnostic OIS 9 assemblage. Aminostratigraphy. Bridgland. Essex [Lower Gravel (Fig. now be seen as undiagnostic (Bridgland. Suffolk. 1998). suggested by Schreve (1997. p. 1964. while Conway (1996) sees them as two discrete units separated by soliﬂuction deposits. which is heavily cemented and iron-panned. and the Upper Gravel a Levallois industry (Wymer. correlated with OIS 10/9/8 (Bridgland. 1994. along with the position of the site in the Thames sequence. and cores have been recovered from Bed 2. The Lower Gravel and Coombe Rock has yielded evidence of only nonhandax material. into which has been incised a late glacial/early interglacial ﬂuvial channel (Lewis. 1996). the Middle Gravel Acheulean material. passing laterally at the channel margins into yellow–gray siltysands overlying a coarse cobble band (Lewis. 1994). a gravel underlying interglacial brickearths. This cobble band.The Clactonian Question 29 of a much more complex Quaternary sequence. 1985. Clactonian ﬂakes and cores have been recovered in primary context from Bed I at Globe Pit.. placed this site in OIS 11 (Bowen et al. 1993. Purﬂeet. The excavated assemblage from the lower deposits is small ( 100 pieces) and some caution is required. although further material has been recovered casually. two nonclassic bifaces.. each containing a different archaeological industry. The Barnham sequence consists of a deep glaciogenic channel ﬁlled with glacial outwash and Anglian till. a ‘‘lag’’ deposit that formed during the evolution of the channel. The deposits are tripartite.
Purﬂeet. Wymer. [After Wymer (1985). J.] . Summary section of Bluelands Pit. with modiﬁcations. 7.30 White Fig. reproduced with the kind permission of J.
Callow demonstrated statistically signiﬁcant differences between the two assemblages but. however. b). 2000) has recently suggested that the Cuxton deposits probably belong to the River Medway equivalent of the Lynch Hill/Corbets Tey Formation (OIS 10–9–8) of the Thames. however. 1987). Cruse’s excavation. in Cruse. Ashton. 1998. it is thus difﬁcult to relate precisely the fauna to a particular archaeological horizon in the cobble band. in Cruse. thus questioning the contemporaneity of the two areas]. thus revising his earlier suggestion (Bridgland.. At this site. 1994a. separated by a depositional hiatus. the Medway equivalent of the later Taplow/Kempton Park Formation. Based on correlation of downstream proﬁles. personal communication. warned against confusing the nonhandax industry with the Clactonian. The upper series was an Acheulean assemblage with abundant handaxes.. the cultural afﬁnities of Paterson’s and Wymer’s fresh Clactonian industry may need revising [although Wenban-Smith (1998) has argued that different areas of the cobble band were possibly exposed at different times. 1998). Bridgland (1996. Ashton et al. Cuxton. . in situ handaxes and handax-manufacturing ﬂakes from within and on top of the cobble band. 1994a. was situated at the base of the sequence. with an Acheulean assemblage in the overlying brickearths. 1987) that they were part of the Binney Gravel. recovered fresh. The Barnham evidence can thus be seen to support rather than contradict the chronology and relationship of the Acheulean and Clactonian. Cruse (1987) described a sequence of ﬂuviatile sands and coarse gravels of the River Medway containing two archaeological series. Lewis. 1998). Wymer (1979) also found an in situ Clactonian assemblage from near the surface of the cobble band. Although broadly contemporary with the cobble band. A diverse temperate fauna of early Hoxnian (OIS 11) character was recovered from the channel silts (Parﬁtt. Kent (Lower Assemblage). Therefore. the presence of a rolled Clactonian assemblage is still valid: no trace of handax manufacture has ever been found among the rolled series in the cobble band. accepting that the two areas are contemporaneous and that the fresh assemblage is in fact Acheulean. but the archaeological areas had been decalciﬁed and no bones were preserved.The Clactonian Question 31 described ﬁve Clactonian assemblages (A–E) in a range of conditions from within and atop this cobble band. but the lower assemblage was completely lacking in handaxes (Callow. for reasons that are not altogether clear (possibly inferred age and context). Recent work by Ashton (1998. 1998). at a location 50 m from the original investigations but sealed by the same black horizon (Ashton et al. The very small assemblage (n 16) which deﬁnitely cooccurs with the early Hoxnian fauna in the channel silts contains no handax elements (Ashton. Still. An earlier excavation by Tester (1965). which revealed the nonhandax to the handax assemblage succession.
1992b). activity facies. a period correlated with pollen subzones HoI–IIb. At present no Hoxnian Acheulean assemblage is dated to this period. Suffolk (Ashton et al. with purely local signiﬁcance relating to raw materials. etc. Chronology Several critical points regarding the chronology of the Clactonian have emerged since the 1970s. Acheulean assemblages are now well established in Pre-Anglian and Anglian (OIS 12) deposits at sites such as Boxgrove. with the ﬁrst appearance of the Levallois technique in the British Isles documented for the overlying (OIS 8) gravels at the Purﬂeet. 1991). late OIS 10/early OIS 9. The Levallois element excepted. 1994. This might suggest that the Clactonian is a sporadically occurring variant of an elastic Acheulean (Rolland. i. 1997. Sussex (Roberts and Parﬁtt. 1974. and Warren Hill. Little Thurrock. Parﬁtt. nonhandax assemblages are replaced partway through the cycle by handax industries. High Lodge. Schreve. in Cruse.e. The chronological distribution of nonhandax assemblages. 1987). 1998). this pattern is essentially identical to that at Swanscombe and perhaps also Barnham. as presently understood and subject to revision (especially in light of the more complex . at which point Clactonian assemblages cease to occur (cf. 1998) suggests otherwise (Table III). prior to the arrival of mollusks belonging to the Rhenish suite. the chronological patterning emerging from recent lithostratigraphical and biostratigraphical Quaternary studies at the key sites (Bridgland. the whole sequence invites comparison with that at Purﬂeet. Faunal and pollen preservation were poor. by lateral extrapolation. among a rich Acheulean assemblage.. although the pollen did permit the tentative attribution of the Cuxton sequence to an interglacial period (Hubbard. The second group can be equated with the same part of the next climatic cycle. the ﬁrst group can all be equated with the early Hoxnian. The nonhandax sites brieﬂy described above can be divided into two groups. Although the true Levallois character of these pieces has been questioned (Callow. cited by Cruse.. As shown in Table III. However. The Acheulean appears to arrive sometime immediately prior to.. The Clactonian cannot therefore be considered to represent an early incursion of humans possessing only a primitive industry that predates the Acheulean. and references above). Wymer. The most signiﬁcant is that the Clactonian does not represent the earliest human occupation of the British Isles. 1999).32 White was located at the highest part of the outcrop and recovered. 1987). 1994. At Purﬂeet and Cuxton and. Bridgland. a small Levallois element. during or perhaps shortly after HoIIc. Suffolk (Wymer et al.
1998 Purﬂeet Late OIS 10/early OIS 9 Clacton. Kerney. Parﬁtt. 1997. 1996 Bridgland. 1997. Phase I deposits Early Hoxnian (OIS 11) Barnham (rolled series) Early Hoxnian (OIS 11) Basal part of Lynch Hill/Corbets Tey Formation Lateral equivalent of overlying brickearth (Grey’s Brickearth) contains post-Hoxnian/preOIS 7 interglacial faunal suite Basal part of Lynch Hill/Corbets Tey Formation Basal Gravels of Lynch Hill/Corbets Tey Formation Underlies post-Hoxnian/pre-OIS 7 interglacial faunal suite Lower part of Boyn Hill/Orsett Heath Formation Early Hoxnian mammalian fauna Non-Rhenish molluscan fauna Early Hoxnian pollen proﬁle Lower part of Boyn Hill/Orsett Heath Formation Early Hoxnian mammalian fauna Non-Rhenish molluscan fauna Conformably overlies Anglian till Early Hoxnian fauna in associated lateral deposits 33 . 1994. 1993. 2000 Turner and Kerney. 1998. Wymer. Chronology of Nonhandax (Clactonian) Assemblages in the British Isles Evidence Reference(s) Bridgland & Harding. 1994. Bridgland 1994.. Schreve.Table III. Little Thurrock Late OIS 10/early OIS 9 Cuxton Late OIS 10/early OIS 9 Bridgland. 1971. 1997 Site Age The Clactonian Question Globe Pit. Schreve. Schreve et al. Schreve. 1996 Lewis. 1985. Conway et al.. Bridgland. 1971. 1997 Bridgland 1994. 1974. freshwater beds Early Hoxnian (OIS 11) Swanscombe. Schreve.
after the appearance of Levallois. Handaxe assemblages do not seem to have been contemporaneous with nonhandax ones. with very rare occurrences of bifacially worked tools termed by some authors nonclassic bifaces. A generalized Lower Paleolithic industry in which unprepared coreand-ﬂake reduction dominates the assemblage. 1. where they appear to exist alone until eventually replaced by Acheulean assemblages toward the latemiddle or end of the warm episode. Acheulean assemblages occur in deposits older than each Clactonian ‘‘event horizon’’ also removes the problem of the very occasional handax from Clactonian sites. Choppers may be present but are not unique identiﬁers. 3. persists through the earlier Hoxnian. as evident in the marine record. The Clactonian does not represent the earliest occupation of the British Isles but has a recurrent occurrence. The fact that. On current evidence. Differences in scraper morphology may be another marker. and is then replaced by assemblages with handaxes. appearing at the end of a major glacial phase or beginning of the succeeding major interglacial. The core-and-ﬂake reduction is inseparable from that seen in assemblages with handaxes and probably represents a universal repertoire of simple. As some Clactonian sites are in secondary cotext. a suggestion perhaps supported by the condition of many ‘‘Clactonian bifaces’’ (Table II). Only the presence/absence and technological or conceptual approach to bifacial tools (handaxes) seems clearly to divide the Clactonian from the Acheulean. . it would be more surprising if no stray handaxes had ever been incorporated in these deposits. 2. although this contrast is as yet poorly deﬁned. Interestingly. nonhandax (Clactonian) assemblages can be described as follows. It ﬁrst appears at the end of the Anglian. this pattern is not repeated during any later cycle. This pattern is essentially repeated during the following climatic cycle (OIS 10-9). if not unavoidable. Further reﬁnements may show that the Clactonian and Acheulean belong to the different substages of these interglacials. ﬂint-working techniques common to all hominid groups over the whole Pleistocene. on both occasions. A New Synthesis Recent work on the British Quaternary sequence and Paleolithic archaeology demands that the deﬁnition of the Clactonian be revised. therefore shows a recurrent occurrence.34 White ﬂuctuations revealed by the marine isotope record).
Very early nonhandax assemblages from southern Europe that may relate to a presently poorly deﬁned Early Pleistocene colonization event. 1998). each of which may require a different set of interpretations. after the widespread introduction of Levallois. A closer connection may exist with neighboring European nonhandax assemblages. Spain (Carbonell et al. In the latter region nonhandax assemblages are present as either . by nonhandax-making populations (Carbonell et al... a brief summary is necessary to demonstrate that nonhandax assemblages may occur in four main situations. A largescale and well-known example is the disparity between southern and southwestern Europe where handaxes are very abundant during the Middle Pleistocene. 1995). In many areas. Italy (Peretto et al. Bosinski.. Monte Poggiolo. Spain (Gibert et al. Central. and may also be entirely a function of a common technological repertoire. 1992. mitigated by the type and nature of raw materials available. McBurney. Isernia. 1950. not assumed. and Northern. 1. 1998). such sites may include Atapuerca TD-6.The Clactonian Question 35 4. these have been historically regarded and interpreted in a very similar fashion to the Clactonian (cf. 2. However. and thus fall outside the scope of this review. 1999). 1991).. Mussi. The apparent relationship to pebble-tool industries of Asia is perhaps coincidental and superﬁcial. Many others are attributed to the middle Paleolithic. Dmanisi. Raposo and Santonja. with the probability of considerable antiquity and separate cultural traditions a recurring theme in the past. but raw material deﬁciencies and activity facies the order of the day. Geographically isolated nonhandax assemblages in areas of Europe where handaxes do not seem to have been widely produced. 1995. 1995). Italy (Peretto. 1989. Georgia (Gabunia and Vekua. 1924. Svoboda. and Eastern Europe where handaxes are very rare or completely absent prior to OIS 8 (Obermaier. prior to 780 kyr. A detailed discussion of nonhandax assemblages from the European Middle Pleistocene is not possible within the current review. European Nonhandax Assemblages Nonhandax assemblages are found in every inhabited region of Pleistocene Europe. Bietti and Castorini. If their dating and artifactual characteristics prove robust. but this must be demonstrated. and Orce. 1998). reﬂecting little more than the common use of a set of very basic (and hence universal) knapping techniques. 1995).
it is very difﬁcult actually to pinpoint such occurrences. If we dismiss the idea of discrete cultural traditions coexisting in the same area. Svoboda. Schoningen (Thieme and Maier. Two speciﬁc examples may be found in the sites on the Le Harve littoral (Ohel and Lechevalier. 1989). while other nonhandax assemblages that may exist within a background of contemporaneous local or regional handax occurrences could include Quarto delle Cinfornare. then local factors such as raw materials.36 White small-sized industries where deliberate selection of small pebbles for ‘‘smashing’’ is suggested to have taken place (Svoboda. The division between these two ‘‘technical provinces’’ is often expressed in terms of a line trending NW–SE and roughly corresponding to the course of the Rhine. 3. 1994). 1995). E and E1. 1995). However. Venoso-Notarchirico alfa. 1979) and at Elveden and Barnham (see below). at Wallendorf (Toepfer. 1986. ¨ ´ and Vertesszollos (Vertes. but appearing during grossly deﬁned periods when handaxes seem not to have been locally produced. where assemblages with handaxes cluster to the northwest and nonhandax ones to the southeast (Vishnyatsky. at Bilzingsleben (Mania and Weber. 1999). for example. 1950. The sporadic occurrence of essentially nonhandax assemblages in areas with abundant and probably contemporaneous handax industries. as. 1995). 1987. for example. functional facies. 1965) or as heavy-duty tool-kits with ¨ ¨ large ﬂakes. such as Markkleeberg (Grahmann. Mania. Mania. Italy (Perretto et al. 1953. 1961. 4. Sites in the latter region which do contain handaxes. 1948. 1961). The British Clactonian may be an example of this type of occurrence. 1995. 1955. 1968). and Hundisberg (McBurney. also contain Levallois elements and are post-OIS 8 in age (cf. 1982). Some may be contemporary with handax assemblages in more distant parts of Europe. As one is always dealing here with geological contemporaneity and lacking many ﬁne-grained well-dated regional correlations. and St. or even simple sampling problems may provide adequate explanations for the absence of handaxes in situation 4 and perhaps sometimes situation 2. 1993) as well as some of those assigned to the Tayacian. Brittany (Monnier and Molines. Italy (Mussi. 1980). 1997). Schick. Colomban. these factors operate on temporal and spatial scales that are just too short to provide . Mania and Baumann. Chronologically discrete nonhandax assemblages often found in the regions where handaxes do occur.. Toepfer. Salzgitter-Lebenstedt (Tode. A very similar pattern has recently been highlighted in Central Asia. the Movius line provides another well-known case in East Asia (Movius. 1989). seen.
In my opinion. yet contained abundant handaxes. Warren. A more testable model was proposed by Ohel (1979. Svoboda. In a separate case study. the remainder of this paper critically appraises the various interpretations offered over the past 20 years to explain the Clactonian. and the majority of case 2. they belong to the third case outlined above and may require a radically different explanation from many other nonhandax assemblages.] This argument could adequately explain the difference between the two assemblage-types—especially the absence of handaxes and thinning ﬂakes—with the Clactonian essentially representing waste material.g..g. it was argued that blanks were prepared . Having concluded that both debitage groups were essentially part of the same ‘‘parent population’’ (see above). In the light of these perspectives and the new synthesis offered above. Clactonian occurrences were interpreted as preparatory workshops where handaxes were roughed-out. while Acheulean sites were viewed as places where handaxes were ﬁnished and used. One fairly common suggestion is that nonhandax assemblages may represent a special wood-working variant of the Acheulean. In this case. 1922. and organizational processes may be more suitable explanations. Ohel suggested that the Clactonian and Acheulean represented different parts of a continuous sequence of reduction occurring at separate places in the landscape. 1989. 1994) and Barnham (Ashton. environmental. 1979). 1998). 1964). etc. has been considered by a number of authors (e. see various comments below). Ohel and Lechevalier. where handaxes were supposedly absent and Station Romain. i. failures. not all nonhandax assemblages across the whole of Europe necessarily have the same explanation. where long-term cultural. used in heavily wooded environments (e. the dating of the British Clactonian clearly shows that there were periods when the hominids in Britain did not make classic handaxes.The Clactonian Question 37 a convincing explanations for cases 1 and 3.. who in some circumstances made handaxes but in others did not.. INTERPRETING THE CLACTONIAN The Clactonian as an Activity Facies of the Acheulean The possibility that the Clactonian was not a discrete cultural entity but represented the localized or seasonal activities of a single nomadic group. In other words.e. Oakley. which occurred in the same gravel deposit. [The spatial separation of the various knapping ‘‘sets’’ used in the production of Paleolithic implements has now been well documented at sites such as Boxgrove (Austin. Ohel and Lechevalier (1979) used this argument to explain the difference between two sites on the Le Havre littoral: Station sous Marine.
1993. This contradicts the proposal that the Clactonian is a roughing-out area. Clacton itself is on London Clay and the only local source of raw material is from the river gravels. For these two sites. and thinning ﬂake does not support the idea that handaxes were roughed out at Clactonian sites. semicortical. broken handaxes. 3. Excavated handax and nonhandax assemblages shows similar percentages of fully cortical. Previous claims for a high proportion of fully cortical ﬂakes probably reﬂect collection bias or ﬂuvial sorting. and cutting meat (Keeley. When extended to the British Clactonian. 1979). some assemblages from these sites represent secondary accumulations of diverse material swept off the surrounding river margins. including wood-working. McNabb. 1979. 1992). critical problems are apparent [see comments to Ohel (1979) and note implications for the wood-working hypothesis]. The total absence of rough-outs. some of the material may even be fresh ﬂint introduced to the site from some distance. 1980. 4. indicating that all stages of knapping were routinely conducted as part of both strategies (McNabb.38 White at the cliff collapse adjacent to Station sous Marine and then transported to Station Romain for ﬁnishing. Furthermore. 1979)]. over a considerable area and over a long but essentially unknown period of time. 5. 2. high-quality sources of raw material. 1. Sites such as Clacton and Swanscombe have been heavily smapled across large segments of extensive paleolandscapes. this interpretation seems perfectly sound [see Austin (1994) for a similar phenomenon at Boxgrove]: the materials occur in the same context and same condition and both employed ﬂint from the cliff collapse [and handaxes were subsequently found to be present in small numbers at Station sous Marine (Callow. 1992). The roughouts identiﬁed by Ohel at Clacton and Swanscombe were interpreted as cores by other analysts (Bordes. hide-scraping. If handaxes had been made or ﬁnished anywhere in the vicinity. 1979). This does not support the idea that Clactonian sites were merely prepara- . as one might expect if they were ‘‘quarry sites’’ for the Acheulean (Wymer. and noncortical ﬂakes. though. 1979. Roe. Roe. hardly the hallmark of a classic quarry site. one might expect to ﬁnd evidence of them in the same gravel deposits (Newcomer. There is no association between Clactonian assemblages and speciﬁc. 1979). Microwear has demonstrated that artifacts from the Clacton Golf Course Site had been used for diverse tasks. part of a contiguous paleolandscape.
or at least this level within it.’’ as the result of small-scale sampling that by pure chance happened to locate an area of a site where for some reason handaxes were not made or used (task-speciﬁc foci). Ashton. we can rarely demonstrate occupational contemporaneity. the two assemblage types should occur throughout the Lower Paleolithic on laterally continuous occupation horizons (cf.’’ Clactonian sites were simply the extreme end of a continuum where few or no handaxes were required. In some cases.. in a lateral continuation of the original Clactonian ‘‘knapping ﬂoor’’ (Ashton et al. Barnham rolled series. or Swanscombe Lower Gravel using the same principles. A more ﬂuid variant of the activity-facies model has recently been forwarded by McNabb and Ashton (McNabb. Roe. sampling biases may be operating. had the older excavations been situated elsewhere then handaxes would have been found and the site. for example. been very heavily sampled over almost a century. representing spatially and time-averaged remains of innumerable activity episodes. 1994). When addressing questions of sampling bias. One must also question whether the nature of many Lower Paleolithic sites is adequate to answer questions concerning speciﬁc activities or activity foci. 1998). Ashton and McNabb.The Clactonian Question 39 tory workshops or that nonhandax assemblages represent only waste material. The widespread deposits that contain them have. Conversely. their frequency at a site being a direct correlate of the frequency of the ‘‘problem. the in situ Clactonian material from the Swanscombe Lower Loam and Barnham ‘‘knapping ﬂoor. 1992. than it is to write off the entire Clacton Freshwater Bed. they see handaxes as problem-solving devices. we can never be sure that 100% sampling of the Barnﬁeld Pit Lower Loam would not still have resulted in a total lack of handaxes. As shown by the recent discovery of in situ handaxes from the cobble band at Barnham. furthermore. that some Clactonian assemblages are in secondary context. To be accepted as parts of the same knapping complex. only geological contemporaneity (Conard . would never have been classiﬁed as Clactonian. 1994b. The Clactonian and Acheulean do not overlap chronologically. It is far easier to write off the high-resolution signatures. 1994a. with excavations randomly revealing only those parts of an otherwise Acheulean signature where handaxes were not present. Their variously derived natures should militate against the behaviorally induced sampling errors associated with purely in situ signatures. 6. Even in the less disturbed nonhandax sites. as noted above. but still no classic handaxes have been found in a ﬁrm context. 1979). Yet there are difﬁculties with this proposal. Rather than dichotomizing the Lower Paleolithic into two extreme assemblage types. it is wise to remember. though.
So. then. Moreover.’’ To take this functional argument to its logical conclusion. In this case. no permutation on the simple activity model. The Clactonian as a Response to Local Raw Materials Raw materials have in the past 20 years become something of an explanatory panacea for Lower Paleolithic archaeologists. 1999. nonhandax sites represent places where handaxes were not needed. 1985. if possible. answered. These are all issues that need to be directly addressed and. as currently formulated. is wholly convincing as an explanation for the Clactonian. Simon Parﬁtt. 1993. Roberts and Parﬁtt. Hoxne. and Boxgrove (cf. In other words. This possibility has yet to be systematically tackled. 1996.40 White and Adler. intensity of occupation rather than activity facies is an equally parsimonious explanation for handax frequency but cannot explain their absence from the obviously well-used Clactonian sites. 1998)—this seems to be the main ‘‘problem’’ they were designed to ‘‘solve. given the time scales involved. Mitchell. 1980. and multiple varied other activities. although a cursory comparison of the cut-marked animal bones from sites such as Clacton. to accept the functional argument we must believe that. Recent use-wear analysis has demonstrated that in most cases handaxes were involved primarily in various butchery activities (Keeley. perhaps indicating different subsistence or procurement strategies. In short. not glibly and implicitly assumed. populations who had the capacity to make handaxes chose not to at certain locations. Swanscombe. To support functional interpretations we require some gross explanation of why similar riverine locations with broadly comparable faunal and ﬂoral resources should be habitually used over extremely long periods for different tasks—some requiring handaxes. 1998) would suggest that it was not the case. Furthermore. substituting other tools in their place. 1993. Keeley’s (1980. Stopp. even though they were carrying out the same set of tasks inferred for those places where they did make them. a variety of different strategies ranging from hunting to late access scavenging. suggesting that the hominids who produced these industries were not routinely butchering animals or at least the same types of animals or animal parts. 1997). 1993) use-wear analyses indicated that practically identical activities were carried out at both Clactonian and Acheulean sites. Binford. would be expected at both types of sites. over vast periods of time. Several studies . some not—and why in some of the latter situations handaxes were later found to be necessary. they are palimpsests of immeasurable and probably unrelated activity episodes undertaken by hominids to achieve a diverse range of shadowy tasks. personal communication.
sites assigned to the Developed Oldowan B. better-made handaxes (Leakey. Raposo and Santonja. large nodules were actively eroding from the local Chalk and were also available from the bull-head beds in the Thanet Sands (Bridgland and Harding. 1994. 1971. at Olduvai Gorge. Mussi. 1996. function. 1975. More recent arguments. Rolland. form. 1976). McNabb. 1985. The use of small or poor-quality raw materials has. 1981. McNabb (1992) suggested that the raw materials at Clacton Golf Course and Jaywick Sands were small and rounded. several complementary sources were available from the local Chalk and gravels (Schreve et al. of course. making them totally inadequate for making handaxes. have proposed that differences in the type. relate to site location. Jones. 1973. 1995. Raw material differences may also help explain some of the variation within the Clactonian itself.The Clactonian Question 41 have convincingly explained morphological variation in handaxes in terms of the type and form of the lithic resources used (Jones. the differences in ﬂake size between sites. the range of ﬂakes and cores in the various collections [with cores occasionally reach- . where the raw materials from Jaywick and the Golf Course have been described as predominantly small (Oakley and Leakey. were originally suggested to represent a different cultural tradition to the Acheulean. 2000). 1983. Ashton and McNabb. 1995. However. inter alia). a survey of the resources available at British nonhandax sites suggests that most cannot be explained in terms of raw material limitations. and procurement strategies) are the major cause of variation (Stiles. During the period represented by the Lower Gravel at Swanscombe. while little detailed experimental or analytical research has been conducted. and distribution of the raw materials used in these two industries (which may. 1992). Indeed. frequently found in river channels over 1 km away from the lake and exhibiting abundant. 1998). Hay. landscape use. Peretto et al. yet the latter was used to make handaxes and the former was not. Tanzania. containing sparse and irregular bifaces and usually located within 1 km of the lake. 1997. or the frequency of various knapping techniques. 1979. 1964). Similarly. however. Villa. 1998). White. 1986.. while at Barnham experimental replication has clearly shown that selected ﬂints from the cobble band were sometimes adequate for handax manufacture (WenbanSmith and Ashton. implying that other implements were expediently substituted in their place by otherwise handaxe-making populations. Even at Clacton. in turn. the raw materials available from the Lower Gravel were often larger than those in the Lower Middle Gravel. At Little Thurrock. 1981).. 1979. suitable blocks were available from the river gravel and possibly some local Chalk outcrops (Wymer. In his doctoral thesis. Singer et al. 1993). At Purﬂeet.. 1937. for example. been advanced as a primary reason for the absence of handaxes in many European Paleolithic contexts (Cahen.
we still lack a methodology for determining whether hominids chose not to import materials or handaxes. in Southern Britain suitable raw materials would almost certainly have been available within a few kilometers and cannot be seen as a limiting resource on anything other than an immediate scale. 1997. Bergman et al. Roughly following Schick (1987). ´ 1990. then materials or tools could have been introduced from outside the immediate area. However. It is true that most raw material procurement and use throughout the Middle Pleistocene were essentially local. 1996). 1997. when local raw materials were unsuitable. Mosquera-Martinez. if not immediate (cf. Unlike some of the European examples highlighted above. this hypothesis presents human behavior as a varied but essentially predictable socially and . It is not adequate to summarize the entirety of the raw materials from Clacton based on select exposures in just one part of this contiguous landscape. 1992). notable examples being the bone handaxes from lithic-poor locations such as Castel di Guido. 1998. Floss. 1997. Wymer ´ and Singer. Lower Industry (Wymer and Singer. This solution is suggested to have been chosen at sites such as Hoxne. 1993. If we assume that the raw materials at some Clactonian localities were unsuitable for handax manufacture. Italy (Radmilli. which merges key elements of raw material and activity-facies models into a more realistic and dynamic framework. Villa. 1998. Dartford (White. 1973)] allows us to infer that pieces of sufﬁcient size and shape to support handaxes were present. 1987.g. Green. contemporaneous landscape. 1998). or whether handaxes did not form a part of their technical tradition. other materials could have been substituted for stone. it is also important to remember that the various exposures once formed part of a continuous. Many were certainly larger than some of the nodules used to make handaxes at Foxhall Road. 1998). 1990. Anzidei and Huyzendveld. 1993). Equally. and Bowman’s Lodge and Wansunt. or nonexistent.. sparse. then hominids were congnitively and organizationally capable of transporting raw materials from elsewhere. 1990. eventually provisioning the site by accident and/or design.. as shown by raw material imports at several European and African Lower Paleolithic sites (e. Such explanations also view raw material use in a rather static fashion. Feblot-Augustins. Schick. 1984. 1988). Ashton (1998) has recently proposed the static resource model. In an attempt to overcome some of the criticisms of previous models. 1983.42 White ing 20 cm in maximum dimension (Singer et al. 1994. When considering the raw materials at Clacton. Lower Middle Gravel (White. Tuffreau et al. or Swanscombe. Ipswich.. and the hominids there had really wanted to produce handaxes. 1988. Villa. Potts. or imported handaxes and then subsequently took them away again. Mosquera-Martinez. Ashton. If the raw materials at the sites attributed to the Clactonian were really inadequate for handax manufacture. Feblot-Augustins..
for example.The Clactonian Question 43 environmentally driven response to the structure of the Pleistocene landscape. but a Clactonian (Barnham-type?) assemblage resulted. then the assemblage might be dominated by locally discarded material with varying but probably low levels of import and export. the main problems in assessing this model are the chronological issues and the paucity of . So the rarity of handaxes at Barnham might reﬂect. were targeted. though—these examples might relate to a quite different group focus which may be functionally. the exploitation of mobile resources might have led to a series of single discards or discrete activity areas over a much wider landscape and would be archaeologically invisible or evident only in the context of large-scale. Barnham no longer a focus of activity but a place where isolated activities occurred. This model obviously works perfectly for the primary context material at Barnham and Elveden. vegetation. Here. water. or ‘‘raw materially’’ driven. At Purﬂeet and Little Thurrock. the occurrences for which it was specially constructed. At Barnham. At Elveden. with only occasional biface reduction on select nodules. the presence of occasional handaxes in the brickearths overlying and concealing the cobble band might show a dramatic alteration in the resource structure of the local landscape. socially. ﬂint was available from a similar gravel and from a Chalk river-bank—here core and ﬂake working is still common. while at Foxhall Road a Barnham-type situation seems to have prevailed. individually or in combination. At present. for example. Ashton (1998) illustrates the model with the examples of Barnham and Elveden. with the activities conducted there dependent on the resource being targeted. handax frequency depends on the resources available and the fashion in which humans organized themselves in the landscape. landscape-based archaeological projects. but handaxes are far more abundant. but if some other resource. knapping was concentrated around a source of raw materials formed by a coarse lag gravel. behaviorally. an Elveden-type situation obtained. then imported stone might have accumulated there by accident and design. the latter perhaps even conditioned by the former. Valuable static resources would have encouraged repeat visits to a particular location. or shady trees. In contrast. two sites suggested to be contemporaneous and to lie on different parts of the same river. The archaeological signatures at these locations would be dense palimpsests of patches with overprinted scatters. Similarly. though. sleeping places. depending on its location and speciﬁc appeal. the general unsuitability of the materials or a speciﬁc focus in group activity. The nature of the available ﬂint is suggested to have encouraged core and ﬂake working. but an Acheulean assemblage resulted. The model is sufﬁciently robust to overcome such objections. but fares rather less well when applied to other contexts. If raw material were the resource targeted. Both locality types would be considered archaeological sites.
Wenban-Smith (1998) has also rejected claims that the Clactonian is nothing more than a locally forced variant or activity facies of the Acheulean. the Clactonian represents a simple ad hoc industry produced opportunistically in an extremely ﬂint-rich landscape. Inherent in this hypothesis is the notion that cultural drift and social learning could act upon the preexisting bifacial element within Clactonian assemblages to arrive at the Acheulean.44 White primary context archaeological assemblages with similar levels of information potential and sampling intensity. Such landscapes. to fulﬁll the requirements of a portable tool. who presumably historically made handaxes. would have characterized Britain following major glaciations. Later in the interglacial. an ad hoc strategy is considered to have been inappropriate. 1989) in an evolving interglacial landscape. as a discrete ‘‘techno-temporo-cultural’’ entity. The proposal that handaxes were habitually transported long distances around the landscape in anticipation of future use is based on speculation and extrapolation from very rare examples (few of which are from the . According to Wenban-Smith (1998). and has attempted to explain its character. Ad Hoc Versus Planned Behavior In a recent overview. when retreating ice sheets would have left a landscape littered with coarse ﬂuvial and outwash gravels. he views the Clactonian in a more traditional manner. for the human inhabitants. even if they really could. The main question here is why the handax should be repeatedly reinvented. Binford. and technique. would simply abandon this practice for a proﬂigate ad hoc strategy. with vegetation and accumulating ﬁnegrained sediments concealing many ﬂint sources. Instead. Consequently.e. and its relationship to the Acheulean in terms of changing planning behavior (cf. he envisages the landscape becoming ﬂint-poor. he suggests. form. with ‘‘disposable’’ sharp-edged ﬂakes and informal tools produced rapidly and with a minimum of efforts. 1979. demanding the adoption of a more heavily planned strategy involving formal tools that could be carried in anticipation of future use—i. The chronology of the Clactonian outlined above would demand that this transformation occurred at least twice. planning depth could be minimal and formal tools unnecessary: ﬂint could have been procured immediately wherever and whenever needed. presumably as a response to similar conditions. or at least greatly elevated in importance. its chronological distribution. when a selection of ﬂakes or a selected core could provide the same portability and greater ﬂexibility. One might also ask why certain hominid societies.. handaxes. with no exogenous introduction of new technical traits. Under these conditions.
perhaps conforms to Ashton’s predictions regarding shifting group foci and isolated foraging events. Austin et al. It is true that handaxes were often transported away from their location of manufacture. Purﬂeet. Speciﬁc high-resolution examples provide better evidence. The relative rarity of artifacts in some of these ﬁner deposits. Swanscombe Lower Loam). and use them in a single sequence that lasted only a few hours. Most sites. the distance traveled and time in which they stayed within the technical system seem not to have been that great (Binford. yet Acheulean industries occur throughout . If hominids really responded to basic raw material availability in the fashion suggested. Swanscombe Lower and Middle Gravel. but they seem to be largely tethered to raw material sources. used. rather than on accumulated observations or the bulk of the evidence. a group of hominids who had brought down a horse went on to gather raw material from the chalk cliff. including those in primary context.. A decent ﬂint source seems to have formed a principal group focus. other than the obvious differences in the technological procedures involved in their manufacture. Such behavior would seem to indicate a rather expedient approach to the manufacture and use of handaxes. in others the observed pattern is precisely the opposite: at Hoxne. In the Boxgrove horse-butchery episode (Pitts and Roberts.g. either Chalk exposures (e. Thus. It is also necessary to examine Wenban-Smith’s view of raw material resources and their usage. 1999). handax use involved greater planning depth than did the use of cores and ﬂakes. rather than major changes in adaptive strategies. but Acheulean ones where raw materials were scarce.g. Little Thurrock. 1998) and where a degree of planning was required to provision either people or places with lithic materials (Kuhn. with Clactonian assemblages found throughout an interglacial wherever raw materials were plentiful. manufacture handaxes. though. Conversely.. there are few empirical reasons to suppose that. we know precisely nothing of the time or distances over which selected cores or ﬂakes were curated. actually suggest that handaxes were frequently produced. On a gross scale. 1989). then we might expect such a response to local variations. are situated around sources of abundant raw materials. both handax and nonhandax. although both assemblage types are also found in locations lacking an immediate source (Hoxne Lower Industry. where other resources were likely targeted (Ashton. 1995). without prolonged. the immediate availability of ﬂint actually increased through the course of the Hoxnian. and discarded in the same broad location. long-distance transport. Stoke Newington). Boxgrove) or river gravels (e. the sheer density and association of handaxes and manufacturing debitage at many Acheulean sites. Even the briefest survey shows that this was not the case. While Wenban-Smith’s expectations regarding diminishing resources might be fulﬁlled at some sites. 1997.. Elveden. Barnham.The Clactonian Question 45 Middle Pleistocene).
when grassland covered a greater proportion of the landscape. As highlighted above. Indeed. 1997). changes in the general availability of ﬂint across southern England cannot be demonstrated. there is little evidence that raw materials were more plentiful on a regional scale during the earlier phases of interglacials. in other cases there are no tangible differences in either the quality or the quantity of materials used to make handax and nonhandax assemblages within single sequences spanning an interglacial (e. None of this conforms to Wenban-Smith’s predictions. Kerney.. It might seem plausible to suggest that raw material availability would diminish throughout the course of an interglacial as a result of increased sedimentation and vegetation. Schreve. appear to have been as forested (albeit with different suites of species) as the late temperate. during which the Clactonian occurred. chalk outcrops.g. 1996. the accepted portrait of rich open-mosaic woodland and abundant fauna in the Early Hoxnian does not . 1970. the very existence of a rich vegetation presupposes the widespread presence of soils and ﬁne-grained sediments over the British landscape from the early Hoxnian onward. regional availability is difﬁcult to assess. but in another demand a more carefully planned strategy.and early temperate periods. the pre. but the gross availability on a regional scale. In general and at coarse scales.. but still most minimally disturbed Acheulean sites reveal an abundant regional raw material base within ﬂuvial systems. Conway et al. 1998). White.. these would not be uniformly coarse and many would be useless for artifact manufacture (David Bridgland. It can be counterargued that it was not the immediate or local resources that conditioned hominid raw material use. 1993. compare the Swanscombe Lower Gravel and Lower Middle Gravel or Lower Loam and Upper Loam).46 White (Singer et al.. whatever the precise character of the mosaic. Even during the more open phases. Turner. Again. Given the small fragments of paleolandscapes that survive intact and the difﬁculties of establishing contemporaneity. 2000). Overall. Even if the early Hoxnian landscape were covered with outwash gravels as suggested by Wenban-Smith. when the Acheulean is found. various lines of environmental evidence from the Hoxnian interglacial indicate a complex sequence of vegetation change with complex mosaic environments (e. if not during certain episodes more heavily so.g. 1998). and clay-with-ﬂint exposures (White. It is therefore unclear why comparable resources (or lack of them) should elicit an ad hoc response during one period of time. it is unlikely that raw materials would have been more widely available. 1971. and while there was certainly a high level of subregional and local variation with (hardly predictable) ﬂuctuations through time. Equally. personal communication. while the in situ development of the Acheulean from the Clactonian must be seen as a possibility.
especially imitation. the Clactonian was associated with heavily wooded environments and peoples who practiced an essentially nonhunting subsistence strategy. Group Size. This will lead to high levels of social transmission. However. while Acheulean populations were characterized as big-game hunters who lived in open environments. environment. in terms of lithic technology. ecology. According to Collins. a response to high predation risk and large resource packages. and Social Learning In a major review of the chronology. nor does the Late Hoxnian appear to have been a silt-choked blanket forest in which ﬂint was a rare commodity. and cultural afﬁliations of handax and nonhandax assemblages from western Europe. 1996) has employed the proposed environmental division in an extremely though-provoking model that combines data from archaeology.The Clactonian Question 47 conform to Wenban-Smith’s post-apocalyptic vision of a barren. will produce regular. with social learning providing the bridge between them. which. postglacial graveyard lacking in anything but ﬂint. and cognitive science. its main assumptions have proved remarkably resilient. 1994 and references therein). While this interpretation was heavily criticized on both empirical and theoretical grounds (see comments to Collins. and the myriad interpersonal problems encountered in large groups will tend to produce strong kin bonds and frequent coalitions. resource distribution. 1969). but that there existed fundamental contrasts in habitat preference and subsistence strategies between them. The dynamics of social learning within a social unit are suggested to vary as a function of group size. Mithen’s model hinges upon a simple theoretical premise: that tool behavior and social behavior are intimately linked. some of these factors would also work to suppress innovation: even though juveniles tend to be the most innovative sector of society. Hominids living in open environments will tend to congregate in large groups. Such groupings will facilitate strong channels of social transmission. Collins (1969) proposed not only that the Clactonian and Acheulean were separate cultural lineages. Mithen (1994. through exposure to many others and because predation. meaning that young hominids will feed with and remain close to familiar adults from whom they can learn. primatology. which in turn is strongly correlated with the structure of the natural environment in which a particular group lives (Mithen. Two basic situations can be described. Habitat. 1. shared patterns of artifact form and high knapping skill. close .
proximity to adults will tend to discourage experimentation. If innovation did occur, though, it would spread quickly, the rate and extent of transmission reﬂecting the high levels of social learning. 2. Conversely, hominids living in closed, forested conditions will tend to form small social units, because of small patchy food resources and low predation risk. With many of the internal costs of largegroup life relaxed, small groups are likely to be less cohesive and juveniles more independent of familiar adults. Channels of social learning will therefore be less well developed, with consequently higher levels of trial-and-error learning. These groups will lack a strong social tradition and their lithic technology will show diverse, unstandardized techniques and forms. Overall knapping skill among members of such groups will also be low, since the ratchet effect, whereby skill increases cumulatively through successive generations and is passed on through imitation, is largely absent. Innovation may be high, but any new developments will often fail to be transmitted, reﬂecting poor channels of social learning. Mithen’s archaeological application of his model argues that the Acheulean, with its various expressions of handaxes and complex bifacial technology, reﬂects the strong social learning of large groups living in nontemperate, open environments, while the Clactonian, with its lack of formal tools, putatively short procedural templates, and low skill requirements, reﬂects the impaired social transmission of small groups living in closed temperate woodlands. While this model provides a stimulating new twist to an old debate, it suffers from a general lack of empirical support. The key problem lies in the association of certain assemblage types with particular environmental regimes, the foundation upon which the entire chain of reasoning is built. There is little or no basis for the assertion that the Acheulean is associated exclusively with nontemperate, open environments and the Clactonian with closed temperate woodlands. Breuil (1932) and McBurney (1950) even argued for precisely the opposite. It is true that some Acheulean assemblages have been recovered from cold or cool climate gravels. It is also true that some have a direct association with the inferred environment, being only minimally derived [e.g., Furze Platt, Berkshire (Bridgland, 1994), Purﬂeet Middle Gravel (Schreve et al., 2000)], but most are heavily derived and abraded assemblages without a ﬁrm stratigraphic association (McNabb and Ashton, 1995). Moreover, when only primary context or in situ Acheulean occurrences are considered, the pattern is almost exclusively one of temperate conditions, for example, Swanscombe, Boxgrove, Elveden, Barnham, Hoxne, Caddington, Beeches Pit, and Hitchin, among others (Conway et al., 1996; Roberts and Parﬁtt,
The Clactonian Question
1999; Ashton et al., 1998; Singer et al., 1993; Sampson, 1978; Preece et al., 1991; Boreham and Gibbard, 1995). The same is true of Clactonian sites, although these do seem to ﬁrst appear during the late glacial/initial interglacial. On the other hand, there is some evidence that during the Hoxnian the appearance of the Acheulean did roughly correspond with an episode of more open conditions, but this has yet to be demonstrated for any other periods. There is, though, no direct association between the Clactonian and closed temperate woodlands. Indeed, while far from perfect and subject to various sampling biases, reconstructions of Quaternary environments suggest that the makers of both Clactonian and Acheulean assemblages shared a common habitat preference. Both are associated predominantly with temperate environments, both are frequently found adjacent to water sources, and most sites actually show a mixture of species suggesting a complex mosaic environment of both open and forested habitats. Indeed, there is considerable debate regarding the ability of Middle Pleistocene hominids to cope with heavily wooded environments (Gamble, 1986, 1987; Roebroeks et al., 1992). Open ﬂuviolacustrine habitats with diverse and abundant resources were extensively targeted by Middle Pleistocene hominids; the landscape at Clacton, for example, has been interpreted as open grassland in the valley ﬂoor, ﬂanked by woodland on the margins (Turner and Kerney, 1971). McNabb and Ashton (1995) further criticized Mithen’s characterization of Clactonian and Acheulean technology, again emphasizing the similarities in core-and-ﬂake working techniques and maintaining that these fail to show any differences in social learning. I generally agree with Mithen (1995), however, that the regular handaxes in the Acheulean are an addition to a basic technology, and, as such, show some fundamental differences in the socially maintained knapping repertoires of Clactonian and Acheulean hominids, which may further relate to the contrasting dynamics of social learning and group size. The latter, however, do not correspond in this instance to differences in the habitats exploited. Wenban-Smith (1996) has pointed out that while Mithen suggests that wooded conditions would negatively affect social learning, other workers (e.g., Gamble, 1986, 1987) have argued that the difﬁculties involved in coping with heavily forested environments would actually require strong and elaborate social networks, probably enhancing rather than suppressing social transmission. Nevertheless, Mithen should be applauded for raising the Clactonian debate above mere function and raw materials. While Mithen’s precise application of his model falters on empirical grounds, his renewed emphasis on social factors as a cause of some lithic variation is welcome and timely. Most recently, Kohn and Mithen (1999) have suggested that handaxes were
not exclusively part of a functional technology, but also a social one, being used to signal a male’s selective ﬁtness. The absence of handaxes from some contexts would here reﬂect arenas where such social signals were unnecessary or where another strategy was being used.
Population Dynamics and Colonization Patterns Most of the recent interpretations of the Clactonian view it as a uniquely British phenomenon, ignoring the fact that for much of the past 500 kyr Britain existed as a peninsula of Atlantic Europe, with only short periods of insularity during each interglacial (Preece, 1995; White and Schreve, 2000). Many also ignore the temporal pattern, deeming it an artifact of sampling size and opting instead for localized adaptive solutions. White and Schreve (2000) have recently proposed a biogeographical ebb-and-ﬂow framework for the human settlement of Britain, that links the patterns of occupation evident in the British archaeological record with the paleogeographical and climatic ﬂuctuations in the geological one (cf. Breuil, 1932). They suggest that extremely harsh environmental conditions would have caused the human abandonment of Britain during each glacial maximum. Once the climate had ameliorated and the landscape had sufﬁciently recovered to support a thriving biomass, human (and animal) populations from Europe would have begun to recolonize the virtually empty British landmass across the dry North Sea and/or Channel Basin (cf. Turner, 1992). Employing the recurrent, diachronous pattern of exclusive nonhandax occurrences during the early Hoxnian and subsequent (OIS 9) interglacial, giving way to Acheulean signatures later in each interglacial, they propose that the Clactonian is a signature of initial recolonization with only the main, later occupation being host to handax-making populations. The absence of this pattern from subsequent interglacials is argued to relate to the introduction of Levallois technology to much of northwestern Europe around OIS 8. Later recolonization events therefore herald the arrival of Levallois technology and a different behavioral repertoire (cf. Bridgland, 1994; White and Pettitt, 1996). However, this proposal does not actually explain the Clactonian, only its chronological distribution. It is still necessary to outline precisely why the earliest recolonization should have been characterized by nonhandax assemblages—a much more difﬁcult undertaking. White and Schreve raise several possibilities, all with inherent strengths and weaknesses. It is possible that the Clactonian relates to the process of pioneering colonization. Hypothetically, if the earliest settlers to move across the North Sea and Channel Basins after a major glaciation were characterized by
in this (and the above) explanation. To accept this. but advocates ﬂuctuating local and regional populations whose material culture and technical traditions vary by virtue of social distance (Mellars. physical barriers. it is almost impossible to choose between them. then the social conditions they experienced might have induced variations in social learning along the lines proposed by Mithen (1994. social barriers. or Roe (1981): that the Clactonian and Acheulean reﬂect two waves of colonization by different populations from different regions of Europe. suggesting that pre-Anglian social groups could have experienced environmental stresses and social splintering during the Anglian glaciation. a common recent history. 1998. causing a breakdown in social learning and the loss of sophisticated handax technology. Toth and Schick. causing handaxes to phase out of use over a minimal number of generations. 1953.. with the Acheulean arriving later from more distant refugia to the south. The Clactonian would.The Clactonian Question 51 small populations. cf. Spain (Carbonell et al. 1996): they do not share a common landscape. Later groups may have been larger and maintained larger networks. represent an impoverished variant of the Acheulean (Narr. Atapuerca. In this regard. it does not explain why there seem to be no handaxmaking populations in Northern and Central Europe until the arrival of the Levallois technique. Of course. Alternatively. 1999) and Monte Poggiolo. one has to bear in mind the possibility that Clactonian populations were not replaced by. This is clearly an issue in need of further research. In this case. but evolved in situ into. Such an explanation does not require us to return to viliﬁed notions of separately evolving parallel phyla ethnically deﬁned by their material culture. Italy (Peretto et al. or a common body of technological knowledge. or more distant refugia). Also. WenbanSmith (1996) offered a similar proposal based on Mithen’s approach.. Ubeidiya. 1994). relatively isolated on the periphery and in restricted enclaves. 1979). and while it is possible to outline several possible factors (ecological barriers. cited by Narr. early colonization may have originated from the nonhandax ‘‘province’’ of Northwestern and Central Europe. each with its own historically maintained technological repertoire. 1993). . for example. in this account. it is interesting to note that in other areas of the Old World the earliest evidence of human occupation often appears to commence with a nonhandax signature. a short-lived technical tradition in which the knowledge of handax manufacture had been lost. though. one must consider a more traditional interpretation built upon those advanced by Breuil (1932). allowing them to disperse and settle with no deleterious effects on social learning or technology. 1998). Wymer (1968). Acheulean ones. one needs to understand why the Acheulean should occur second on two separate occasions. Israel (BarYosef. while such an interpretation may explain the Clactonian itself. Aldhouse Green.
social structure. or technologically. and which British archaeologists now seem bafﬂingly unable to abandon (McNabb. but never do they seriously question its validity as an archaeological phenomenon. the data could not be explained at all and were largely ignored (e. Later. socially. As shown above. There are currently two basic approaches to the Clactonian. DISCUSSION AND CONCLUSION The history of the Clactonian faithfully chronicles the story of Lower Paleolithic research in the twentieth century. Perhaps the time truly has come to abandon the traditional nomenclature (cf. One of the biggest problems we now face relates simply to the historical baggage surrounding the Clactonian and Acheulean—even the names conjure up particular sets of popularly perceived traits. a construct originally created to ﬁll a void in a now-moribund theoretical paradigm aimed at recognizing identity rather than behavior. British Museum. workers in this tradition attempt to deﬁne and evaluate the Clactonian in their own terms. ecologically.. and relationship (or lack of) between hominid networks in various parts of Europe. whatever it may mean behaviorally. 1995. not explained away. Swanscombe. 1926). for some 10 to 20 years after the ﬁrst discoveries at Clacton. later sustained by special pleading and selective acknowledgment of the data. The second way is to see the Clactonian as an anachronism. 1996b). those with handaxes and those without. colonization patterns. . Various models have been used to explain the Clactonian and the data may have been manipulate and (mis-)read to ﬁt them. In this view. 1996b). but this semantic solution will bring us no closer to resolving the Clactonian question.52 White The Island Britain model expands the Clactonian problem to a European scale and demands that we look once again at population ebb and ﬂow. and Little Thurrock. as new theoretical frameworks developed. Although I have previously subscribed to this view. The bottom line is that there is an observable archaeological phenomenon to be explained. However.. Indeed. I can no longer support it. the Clactonian just does not exist. they were forced to take account of the Clactonian.g. The different interpretations offered over the past 80 years reﬂect their position in history and their popular life span generally lasts only as long as the paradigm that spawned them. Roberts et al. but the Clactonian was not created out of nothing to fulﬁll the preconceptions of a theoretical framework. and offers solutions to explain this. at present it leaves many questions unanswered. The ﬁrst accepts that there are two assemblage-types. McNabb.
1998). which seems even less likely. Foley and Lahr. 1998) and whether activity facies and raw materials do not provide a better answer. If the importance of handaxes has been overplayed. one of the most frequently asked questions about handaxes is why hominids went to all that bother when a simple ﬂake would have sufﬁced. However. Still. 1994). being culturally generated and transmitted over hundreds of millennia through the nonbiological mechanisms of social learning (see summaries by Steele and Shennan. 1997). given the widespread assumption that hominid populations in Europe were fairly small and isolated with circumscribed. exclusive networks that ebbed and ﬂowed in response to climatic and other variables (Gamble. While their form may vary as a response to local raw material conditioning (Jones. 1986. However. and non-handax-making populations (Rolland. an actuality that to some extent is a product of its role in the history of archaeology. To deny the possibility of such social traditions does not tally with what we know of even chimpanzee material culture (Whiten et al. So how do we explain the Clactonian? There is no easy answer to this. the truth is that we know very little of how Paleolithic societies were organized. 1979. and as the data are often of alarmingly low resolution and lend themselves to different interpretations. Mithen. any explanation now needs to accommodate the typological disparity but technological parity with the Acheulean and the proposed recurrent temporal . The alternative is to see a uniform global technology (raised above the baseline elements).. but we do know that raw materials and function can explain only some nonhandax assemblages. the longevity and abundance of handaxes across much of the Old World can leave little doubt that they were a signiﬁcant part of hominid adaptive life and an important social phenomenon. 1981. it is actually difﬁcult to reach a solid conclusion. 1993. all with their own inherent strengths and weaknesses. although this probably stems from the rudimentary nature and limited possibilities inherent in the technologies that survive.The Clactonian Question 53 Running through all arguments regarding the Clactonian is the assumed status of the handax and its use as an instrument of taxonomic classiﬁcation. we should not be afraid of attributing their overall presence/absence to differences in the bodies of social knowledge possessed by Paleolithic societies and the ways in which these were maintained and transmitted. After all. 1999). then there should be few problems in conceiving of entire populations who habitually survived without them. if they were not as vital to Paleolithic society as they seem to be to Paleolithic archaeologists. 1996. Perhaps the surprising thing is the relative unity within the Lower Paleolithic record. White. Others have questioned whether the paleosocial dynamics of Middle Pleistocene hominids in Europe could sustain separate handax-.
is that the basic canon of ‘‘processual’’ interpretation favored in recent years. such as function and raw materials. often passing. 1983. What is clear. (eds.g. P. adaptive strategies. F. The archaeology of distance: Perspectives from the Welsh Palaeolithic. . any inadequacies remain entirely my own. although possibly good explanations for some nonhandax occurrences (Villa. We could possibly come up with reasons why handaxes are absent from most Clactonian sites—making a special case for each instance—but this smacks of arguing the Clactonian away in order to conform to the current geist. more sites of the caliber of Barnham and Swanscombe are certainly required and several old sites need new attention with speciﬁc questions in mind. We need to provide not only much more dynamic and realistic pictures of hominid behavior (e. theoretical trend. Stone Age Archaeology: Essays in Honour of John Wymer. Ashton) but seriously to reconsider the possibility that the presence/absence of handaxes reﬂects true differences in the societies and social technologies of different hominid groups (e. and Pettitt.. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS I would like to thank Nick Ashton. explanations are favored not by virtue of their intrinsic capacity to explain the data but by how well they relate to a popular. The Clactonian needs to be reexamined on a regional. at least not in any short-term. pp. European scale. To assess such ideas. 1998). though.. (1998). N. Paul Pettitt. A complete resolution will perhaps never be forthcoming.54 White distribution at the beginning of two separate Middle Pleistocene interglacials. Much of the time. Rolland. but we certainly need to rethink the introspective approach that has characterized the Clactonian debate for much of the past 20 years. In Ashton. We will never understand the Clactonian if we look no farther than the end of Clacton Pier. REFERENCES Aldhouse-Green. I am particularly indebted to John McNabb and Nick Ashton for many stimulating hours spent debating the Clactonian question over the past 10 years. rather than actually explaining it.g. taking account of paleosocial dynamics. London. does not really seem to ﬁt the Clactonian evidence very well at all. As always. and the sociohistorical effects of proximate circumstance on long-term traditions. and David Bridgland for reading and commenting on early drafts of this paper.. Mithen). Such a procedure usually stalls when the chronology is brought into the picture. 137–145. Healy.. S. monocausal formulation.). Lithic Studies Society.
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