A giant hand axe more than 200,000 years old has been discovered in the AlUla region of northwest Saudi Arabia. Crafted from fine-grained basalt, the axe is 51.3 cm (20 inches) long and shaped on both sides to create strong cutting or chopping edges.
The axe was discovered in the Qurh Plain, a desert area in the south of AlUla, by an international team of archaeologists working with the Royal Commission for AlUla (RCU) to explore the site for prehistoric remains. The team found more than a dozen other hand axes, all of them smaller than the giant example, and all of them also date to the Lower-Middle Paleolithic period.
Dr Ömer Aksoy, Project Director, said: “This hand axe is one of the most important finds from our ongoing survey of the Qurh Plain. This amazing stone tool is more than a half a meter long (length: 51.3 cm, width: 9.5 cm, thickness: 5.7 cm) and is the largest example of a series of stone tools discovered on the site. An ongoing search for comparisons from across the world has not come up with a hand axe of equal size. As such this may well be one of the largest hand axes ever discovered.”
In addition to this Qurh Plain Survey, RCU currently oversees 11 other archaeological specialist projects conducting fieldwork in AlUla and nearby Khaybar. This ambitious research programme is being conducted with the aim to further unlock the mysteries of antiquity in this region. This extraordinary discovery highlights how much there is still to learn about the human history of Saudi Arabia.
As a comparison, the 300,000-year-old hand axe discovered in Kent earlier this year that is one of the longest ever found in Britain is a mere 29.5 cm (11.6 inches) long. The AlUla hand axe is slimmer at the base (3.7 inches vs. 4.4 inches), which would have made it slightly easier to wield gripped with two hands.