Paleolithic people made handaxes to show off their sexiness, argue some paleontologists

Originally published at: Paleolithic people made handaxes to show off their sexiness, argue some paleontologists | Boing Boing


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Sometimes a handaxe is just a handaxe.


I mean, given that overblown kitchen remodels are a significant contributor to house-flipping / house price inflation it would seem at least plausible that a fancy set-up has some deep-seated stuff that goes beyond utility. Viking ranges are a regular target for peacock mockery on the Green Building Advisor forums…


Sexual selection? We have no evidence (to my amateur knowledge) of a gender bias in tool making. I suspect it might have been just “outdoing the Thags.” "“Look at Ogg with that shapeless lump of an axe! I can do better than that!” How much more human can you get?


Respectable paleontologists don’t get invited to those sort of parties either?


The same could be said for a well stacked pile of firewood.


Ceylon Monroe listed several Maine aphorisms for a young woman evaluating partners based on how their wood pile looked. In a similar vein, Lars Mytting’s book appeared first in Norway under the title, ‘Solid Wood.’ In Norway solid wood is an affectionate term for a solid man. In his book Mytting also offers advice ‘for those looking to marry.’ From Chapter 5 of Norwegian Wood:

Upright and solid pile: Upright and solid man

Low pile: Cautious man, could be shy or weak

Tall pile: Big ambitions but watch out for sagging and collapse

Unusual shape: Freethinking, open spirit, again, the construction may be weak

Flamboyant pile, widely visible: Extroverted, but possibly a bluffer

A lot of wood: A man of foresight, loyal

Not much wood: A life lived hand to mouth

Logs from big trees: Has a big appetite for life, but can be rash and extravagant

Pedantic pile: Perfectionist; may be introverted

Collapsed pile: Weak will, poor judgment of priorities

Unfinished pile, some logs lying on the ground: Unstable, lazy, prone to drunkenness

Everything in a pile on the ground: Ignorance, decadence, laziness, drunkenness, possibly all of these

Old and new wood piled together: Be suspicious: might be stolen wood added to his own

Large and small logs piled together: Frugal. Kindling sneaked in among the logs suggests a considerate man

Rough, knarled logs, hard to chop: Persistent and strong willed, or else bowed down by his burdens

No woodpile: No husband


I think anyone who customises anything can kind of relate to this and it doesn’t necessarily have to do with finding a mate.

Sometimes just making the thing nice is motivation in and of itself.

And possibly when all the cave-girls were fawning over the most successful hunters and their big clubs, all the cave-nerds were hanging around down by the river napping rocks into ever cooler shapes and getting really good at napping rocks.

(I’m not an anthropologist, go easy on me!)

In a somewhat related note, I saw a mobile phone featured in ID Magazine 'round about the millennium and just fell in lust with it! It cost about 350 pound sterlings at the time and I was still a design student, but a couple of years later, with my first paycheck I bought one on ebay.

And although it was nice to hold and looked pretty cool, the build quality was terrible. And the ergonomics never went beyond holding it to actually using it like a phone. The thing was fucking useless and after about three weeks of really trying, I gave up on it.

But I still have it (its right beside me as I type this) and it’s still a lovely thing to hold.


So ‘too sexy for my chert’ has been given official hypothesis status now?

A very primitive ancestor of the ‘love machinists’ of the industrial revolution? (invented interchangeable parts; obviously to blame for hookup culture)

And contemporary ‘photogeniclithiography’ processes in advanced semiconductor fabrication? (believe size matters; will invest tens of billions to prove it)


I grew up in Maine, and this was one of my big fall chores! Maybe that explains how I lucked out so well in the partner department…


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Sounds like this conversation is just how paleoanthropologists flirt with each other, and I’m betting the ones making the “evolutionary psychology” arguments are the ones going back to their rooms at the conference center alone.

For sure, people can forge deep connections through the exchange of handicrafts. And, being outside of language, that would work exactly the same for early humans as it does now. But it only works if the other person does similar crafts themselves. Like, crocheting a blanket for a civilian hits very differently to crocheting a blanket for another constructed-textiles person, who can understand the content.


:notes:and I do my little turn on the saber-toothed catwalk…


Strange that palaeontologists would discuss topics that are usually studied by archaeologists and palaeoanthropologists…


Being a highly competent craftsperson/artist has never been sexy, said the rockstar to the fashion designer.


Yeah but what’s my excuse?


I mean… I’d probably be down for whatever if someone gave me a perfectly made stone hand axe.

Though it could have been given as gifts, either for courting or for other social interactions. “I made this nice thing for you.” If it was for courting it could show that the person knows what they are doing, is skilled in creating stone tools and can provide for the family.

It could even been a form of money or trade, which would explain piles of unused ones.



Men being evaluated on their piles?

Hmmm… there may be an app in this.


There are already plenty of apps where men invite readers to evaluate them on their wood.