Palaeolithic Acheulean hand axe of accomplished form executed by the hands of one of our ancestors, the African Homo ergaster, contemporaneous to European Homo erectus. The typically tear or clovis shaped quartzite granular stone weathered by eons in the Saharan Ténéré (the Berber phrase for the wilderness). Now set into a bronze cradle enabling the hand axe to be removed for study, this surmounted with a bronze block plinth.
The pristine condition of the prehistoric tool is remarkable. The surface patina, we refer to this as the desert patina, now polished by sand and wind honed by the ravages of time as the artefact lay-in and on the open surface of the Sahara desert. The collection area of these tools lies beyond the Northern states of North Africa. Berbers travel the Ténéré and occasionally have the good fortune to discover prehistoric artefacts, in what is termed open sites, fortuitous roaming and opportunity to discover artefacts in areas of uninhabited desert. This particular artefact was discovered in the southern corner of Algeria between Mali and Niger.
Berber nomads do not always have accurate knowledge of state borders or modern mapping, therefore it can be problematic to accurately determine an exact site, when the artefacts are traded from hand to hand up into the North and Morocco where this hand axe was finally traded through the markets of Marrakech, the finding knowledge is often lost.
Geoffrey Moorhouse wrote in his epic 3600 mile journey to cross the Sahara from the Atlantic to the Nile, of witnessing ‘the fearful void’ areas strewn with prehistoric artefacts. Discover more about Geoffrey Moorhouse's career, The Guardian obituary bio