Trust, not lust, answer to handaxe enigma says expert

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Trust rather than lust is at the heart of the attention to detail and finely made form of handaxes from around 1.7 million years ago, according to a York University researcher.

Dr Penny Spikins, from the Department of Archaeology, suggests a desire to prove their trustworthiness, rather than a need to demonstrate their physical fitness as a mate, was the driving force behind the fine crafting of handaxes by Homo erectus in the Lower Palaeolithic period.

Dr Spikins said: “We sometimes imagine that early humans were self-centred, and if emotional at all, that they would have been driven by their immediate desires. However, research suggests that we have reason to have more faith in human nature, and that trust played a key role in early human societies. Displaying trust not lust was behind the attention to detail and finely made form of hand-
axes.”

The theory is explained in an article in World Archaeology and contrasts sharply with previous claims that finely crafted hand-
axes were about competition 
between males and sexual selection.

Handaxes, or bifaces, appeared around 1.7 million years ago in Africa and spread throughout the occupied world of Africa, Europe and western Asia, functioning primarily as butchery implements.

Dr Spikins said: “Trust is essential to all our relationships today, and we see the very beginnings of the building blocks of trust in other apes.

“The implication that it was an instinct towards trust which shaped the face of stone tool manufacture is particularly significant to our understanding of Lower Palaeolithic societies,” she added last night.