Hand Axes I

Hand axes are a repeated theme at the start of this second book. Not only is every hand axe handcrafted, unique in form and imbued with hidden stories of its use, but each is a symbol of human ingenuity. For about 1 million years before the innovation of the hand axe, our ancestors use of stone tools had hardly changed. Then the hand axe appeared approximately 1.8 million years ago in Africa, creating new possibilities and representing a dramatic mental development. These weren’t really ‘axes’. Rather they were multi-purpose tools for butchery, chopping, slicing etc and to dig, hammer etc. Their wide capabilities were of course their strength.

Hand axes may seem crude lumps of rock to an untrained eye, but look again. Made of stone, very often flint or chert, both sides had to be shaped or ‘knapped’ into symmetrical, teardrop or egg-shaped forms that also had to fit very comfortably into a specifically sized hand. The top edges were sharpened and could be maintained with skill indefinitely (until the hand axe became unworkable, split, shattered, was lost etc.) They therefore required a highly considered tool ‘template’ that required sophisticated skill and thought to create these work horse wonders. No other tool has had such longevity in our human development, yet there’s still so much to learn about their use.

“Our Nation has lost a jurist of historic stature” stated Chief Justice John Roberts on the death of the formidable, American human rights justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg or ‘Notorious RBG’ as she was often known. While I was pondering the wider horizons created for us by the hand axe, the mighty, Supreme Court Justice RBG died. She had been an outstanding, tireless advocate against discrimination, and dedicated her life to fighting inequalities, particularly for women. Even the regressive, divisive Trump acknowledged her enormity.

By October, Covid numbers were on the up again.