A Cast of a Palaeolithic Handaxe from Hoxne, Suffolk

A cast of a Palaeolithic handaxe from Hoxne, Suffolk
During August, we are publishing through this blog a series of new photographs taken by archaeological photographer Ian Cartwright for an online Image Gallery created with the support of the Arts and Humanities Research Council. You can read more about the gallery here, and you can see the whole gallery online here.

Here is the caption for this image:

This object appears at first glance to be a prehistoric stone implement, but is in fact a Victorian plaster cast of a Palaeolithic hand-axe. 

Written on a label attached to the object, and re-written directly onto the axe, are the words “FOUND AT HOXNE, SUFFOLK IN 1797”. This is a reference to the famous discovery of hand-axes at this location by John Frere, who published his ‘Account of Flint Weapons Discovered at Hoxne in Suffolk’ in the journal Archaeologia in the year 1800. Frere wrote of the hand-axes that 'They are, I think, evidently weapons of war, fabricated and used by a people who had not the use of metals [and are from] a very remote period indeed.' 

We know today that the original hand-axe dates from c.400,000 years age. It is held by the Society of Antiquaries, and is on long-term loan to the British Museum. The writing on the object can be cross-referenced with Pitt-Rivers’ own record in 1874 of “3 casts of implements in the British Mus” in his own collection - indicating that he acquired this cast at some point before 1874.

This object is an indication of Pitt-Rivers’ early interest in Palaeolithic archaeology, and his use of casts of museum objects for comparative purposes. You can read more about the original object on the British Museum's website here 

(Pitt Rivers Museum Accession Number 1884.122.2).

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