Over the last 10 years it has become increasingly clear that the earliest human dispersals into NW Europe occurred from c. 1Ma along the Atlantic seaboard from the Iberian Peninsula and southern France into NW France and Britain. The cycle of cold to warm climates over the last million years suggests repeated colonisations from SW Europe into NW Europe with retreats to the south during each cold phase. WEAP seeks to examine the human presence in Europe at the MP through the analysis of Acheulean technology, becoming a consistent part of the technology at c. 500Ka. Within this new techno-complex, a standardized tool, the handaxe, became especially significant. This is considered the maximum reflection of the human cognition. Due to the effectiveness and the apparent versatility of these tools, they persisted over more than one million years over a vast geographical area. However, in spite of the Acheulean stability in terms of the production of handaxes, understanding the variability of such a techno-complex continues to be a main research issue.
One of the problems of comparative studies has been the different systems of analysis used in different countries. The research in Britain has been dominated by the typology of Wymer, the morphometry of Roe and the shaping sequences. In France, researchers use the typology used by Bordes with a more complex approach of the chaîne opératoire, which was also used in Spain, together with the Logical Analytic System. The different criteria to analyze and to categorize the results made it almost impossible to compare data from the different works. Until now there were only superficial comparisons between the major sites in Western Europe. Now is the time to take advantage of new technologies and move the research forward to make more accurate comparisons between sites. In fact, the institutions involved in WEAP are supporting top research and already investing in cultural exchanges beyond the state-of-the-art methods in archaeology, geology, and taphonomy. So, WEAP will dramatically improve the scale and quality of the analysis of fragmentary materials.
WEAP includes handaxes samples from several sites from Great Britain (Brandon Fields, Boxgrove, Elveden, Swanscombe-UMG) and France (La Noira, Cagny La Garenne, Saint Pierre and Menez Dregan). All the assemblages are recently excavated, so we have up to-date multidisciplinary data which gives context to the lithic analysis and a better interpretation of site function. All the information is available for the applicant. The results will be combined with her previous experience at other MP sites of Spain (Atapuerca) and UK (Boxgrove).