No artifact could be more important or impressive than the first stone tool of primitive humans. This Oldowan Tradition pebble stone tool dates back to the VERY FIRST humans of Europe! It was found in England near the Coastal Norfolk town of Runton, a region home to evidence of some of the oldest human occupation in the UK, as well as all of Europe. This rare pebble tool was fashioned by Homo antecessor over half a million years ago. It was discovered in the same general area of the famous Happisburgh footprints, the oldest known hominid footprints outside Africa, dated to 950,000 years old.
Before we discuss the details of this specimen, it is important to emphasize the natural hole that this flint cobble has. The feature is something we have NEVER seen in any prehistoric stone tool. Since this dates to the OLDEST period of human existence in Europe, it is important to note why this feature is unique. In this time, all stone tools would have been made and left behind where they were used. Early humans did not transport their belongings nor had a way to do so. But... with a chopper axe, the fundamental tool of human existence in its day, to have a way to carry it would have been so rare and valued. Certainly coveted by all that saw it. The reason we think it WAS kept and carried, suspended around the neck or waist of its early human owner by a cord, is that the use wear on the chopping edge and where held, is more worn than any other Lower Paleolithic tool we have seen from this region! You can even see evidence of the natural hole being flaked to open it up further and smooth it on one side. Could this have been to prevent fraying to a sinew or fiber cord that it was carried suspended from? The luxury of being able to carry this pebble chopper axe meant that it was not necessary to find a suitable stone and make another axe as its owner traveled from camp site to hunting site. The wear on the hole, the wear on the chopping edge and the wear on the grip region back up this theory that this was a HIGHLY CHERISHED PRIZE POSSESSION OF ITS HOMO ANTECESSOR OWNER!
We acquired this English Oldowan pebble axe in a lifetime collection from the same site, mostly made up of pebble scrapers. There were a few pebble choppers but all were much smaller than this specimen except for one. This was THE ONLY STONE TOOL WITH A NATURAL HOLE IN THE STONE of the entire original collector's collection! This is also the ONLY prehistoric stone tool we have ever seen that had a natural hole it, likely a cherished feature by its prehistoric owner. These Oldowan pebble tools from Runton, are the only Oldowan pebble tools from England we have ever had the opportunity to acquire for sale. They are ALL rare but this specific pebble axe is ESPECIALLY rare and should not be missed by advanced collectors of the finest pieces!
This large pebble chopper axe was made on a naturally flat, large pebble cobble of flint with a natural hole and tapered end. The grip and flaking were oriented to utilize a naturally thinner region with the hole, for an easy grip and possible suspension on a cord for carry - something rare since no stone tool of this period was transported! Oblique strikes on the same edge created an initial split of the cobble and then a sharpening of a chisel chopping edge. A very heavy and worn polish on the chopping edge is evident of extreme long-term use with extensive secondary chipping on the edges to resharpen in prehistoric time. The patina and colors extremely old and rich, and really make this not only an incredibly rare Lower Paleolithic British artifact, but one of immeasurable beauty, as well! Much of the original pebble outer cortex remains, providing a naturally ergonomic grip on the tool. A heavy colorful patina and intact mineral deposits deep in flaked micro-crevices, provide proof of the age and authenticity and are features not seen in modern forgeries. Workmanship is excellent affording a well-thought out design and functional grip when held.
The majority of the evidence for Lower and Middle Paleolithic occupation in East Anglia survives as redeposited flakes and tools recovered from river gravel deposits made by the ancestral Thames and Bytham River systems. The area where this stone tool was found was once part of a prehistoric river estuary system that flowed into the North Sea and included the Thames, fed by an extinct river from the Midlands called the Bytham. The Bytham River was one of the great Pleistocene rivers of central and eastern England until it was destroyed by the advancing ice sheets of the Anglian Glaciation around 450,000 years ago. Its estuary system included Worcestershire, Warwickshire, Oxfordshire and Derbyshire, and it flowed eastward across East Anglia to the North Sea. It was formed prior to the Anglian ice advance roughly 450,000 years ago, originating around modern day Reading, and flowing northeast to a delta somewhere between modern day Happisburgh and Norton Subcourse in East Anglia. During this time in prehistory, southern England was connected to France by a land bridge and the rivers, including the Rhine, flowed north into a lake formed at the edge of the ice sheet.
Evidence of prehistoric human occupation in the area was recently recorded by the amazing discovery of footprints called the The Happisburgh footprints. These were a set of fossilized hominid footprints that date to the early Pleistocene, over 800,000 years ago. They were discovered in May 2013 in a newly uncovered sediment layer of the Cromer Forest Bed on a beach at Happisburgh in Norfolk, England, and carefully photographed in 3D before being destroyed by the tide shortly afterwards. Results of research on the footprints were announced on 7 February 2014 and identified them as the oldest known hominid footprints outside Africa. Approximately fifty footprints were found in an area measuring nearly 40 square meters (430 sq ft). Twelve were largely complete and two showed details of toes. The footprints of approximately five individuals have been identified, including adults and children. The Happisburgh footprints mark the first time evidence of early humans from 1,000,000 years ago has been found so far north. Paleontologists had believed that hominins of the period required a much warmer climate, but the inhabitants of prehistoric Happisburgh had adapted to the cold, suggesting that they had developed advanced methods of hunting, clothing, sheltering and warming much earlier than previously thought.
This region is also famous for the discovery of the remains of a Steppe Mammoth dated to 600,000 years. The fossil discovery in West Runton marks the oldest mammoth skeleton to have been found in the UK and the most complete specimen of the species to have been found in the world.
WARNING: There are a host of these "tools" for sale on Ebay and many online sellers' websites providing less information and understanding of Lower Paleolithic specimens. Many of these sources offer nothing more than damaged ancient river cobbles caused by environmental action (glacial disturbance, frost damage, etc.) or modern made fakes. Every broken cobblestone found is NOT a human-created Paleolithic tool! The determination of what is man-made and what is an ordinary broken river rock requires a very high level of understanding Paleolithic tool manufacture and technique as well as the experience to be able to differentiate the two and authenticate a genuine stone tool from this culture. Know your source and only deal with well-informed sellers who can help you understand the difference.