During precautionary excavation for a school in the Medway Valley of Kent, UK, archaeologists discovered several interesting finds in the Spring of 2023. Alongside 800 stone artifacts, 2 “Giant Hand Axes” were found in the Medway region, a few kilometers away from the River Medway.
Excavations in the area have found items from Roman occupation to Prehistory in even the same regions, like the work of Senior Archaeologist Giles Dawkes (UCL Institute of Archaeology) who is working on a 1st-4th century Roman cemetery that was found in the same area as the “Giant Hand Axes”. The Medway Valley, along with the Thames region, has a history rich with Paleolithic evidence. Collaborations like the Medway Valley Paleolithic Project (MVPP) show a community that appreciates its ties to prehistory and excavations like one the UCL Institute of Archeology is handling in Kent highlight it all the more.
The site of these findings has seemingly been preserved due to sediments, and possibly the more recent Ice Age some 115,000 – 11,700 years ago. This is interesting because the 800 or so stone artifacts have been dated to 300, 000 years ago. The close proximity to the River Medway could mean that even more Paleolithic finds are to be discovered if further excavation is done along the former pathways of the Ice Age.
What makes a Hand Axe a “Giant”?
What makes a Hand Axe a “Giant”? According to UCL archeologists, a flint knife that is over 22 cm is labeled an extremely large item. The largest of these “Giants” rests at 29.5 cm, making it an outlier among outliers in flint stone tools. A distinct aspect of these “Giant Hand Axes” is along the curvature of the edges and how elongated they are. When one thinks of flint tools, often we imagine something small enough to handle but not enough to hinder, as flint still keeps its egde even after thousands of years. The two hand axes, however, give cause for a pause, as their size makes one wonder how practical such a tool could have been 300,00 years ago. One would have to be both strong and skilled, but also have the needs for it.
Perhaps the lions, deer, bears, and other long-gone animals from the Medway region gave that necessity, but fossil evidence has been hard to come by. We have an idea of the tools early Medway region folks were using, but more is still to be done.
Anderson, S. (2023, July 11). Giant Hand Axes Discovered in England Point to Prehistoric Humans’ ‘Strength and Skill’ Smithsonian Magazine. https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/giant-hand-axes-discovered-in-england-point-to-prehistoric-humans-strength-and-skill-180982516/
Francis Wenban-Smith (2009) Medway Valley Palaeolithic Project [data-set]. York: Archaeology Data Service [distributor] https://doi.org/10.5284/1000073
Ingrey, L., Duffy, SM., Bates, M., Shaw, A. and Pope, M. 2023 On the Discovery of a Late Acheulean ‘Giant’ Handaxe from the Maritime Academy, Frindsbury, Kent, Internet Archaeology 61
Giant stone artefacts found on rare Ice Age site in Kent, UK. (2023, July 23). ScienceDaily. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2023/07/230706002155.htm
Saraceni, J. E. (2023, July 9). Giant Prehistoric Hand Axes Found in England – Archaeology Magazine. https://www.archaeology.org/news/11579-230706-england-giant-axes