A 1.4-million-year-old bone handaxe from Konso, Ethiopia, shows advanced tool technology in the early Acheulean

Katsuhiro Sano, Yonas Beyene, Shigehiro Katoh, Daisuke Koyabu, Hideki Endo, Tomohiko Sasaki, Berhane Asfaw, Gen Suwa

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Citations (Scopus)


In the past decade, the early Acheulean before 1 Mya has been a focus of active research. Acheulean lithic assemblages have been shown to extend back to ∼1.75 Mya, and considerable advances in core reduction technologies are seen by 1.5 to 1.4 Mya. Here we report a bifacially flaked bone fragment (maximum dimension ∼13 cm) of a hippopotamus femur from the ∼1.4 Mya sediments of the Konso Formation in southern Ethiopia. The large number of flake scars and their distribution pattern, together with the high frequency of cone fractures, indicate anthropogenic flaking into handaxe-like form. Use-wear analyses show quasi-continuous alternate microflake scars, wear polish, edge rounding, and striae patches along an ∼5-cm-long edge toward the handaxe tip. The striae run predominantly oblique to the edge, with some perpendicular, on both the cortical and inner faces. The combined evidence is consistent with the use of this bone artifact in longitudinal motions, such as in cutting and/or sawing. This bone handaxe is the oldest known extensively flaked example from the Early Pleistocene. Despite scarcity of well-shaped bone tools, its presence at Konso shows that sophisticated flaking was practiced by ∼1.4 Mya, not only on a range of lithic materials, but also occasionally on bone, thus expanding the documented technological repertoire of African Early Pleistocene Homo.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)18393-18400
Number of pages8
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number31
Publication statusPublished - 2020 Aug 4


  • Acheulean technology
  • Bone handaxe
  • Core preparation
  • Early pleistocene
  • Use-wear

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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