Olduvai Hand-axe

800,000 - 400,000 years old

British Museum

British Museum
London, United Kingdom

This hand-axe is a masterpiece of the toolmaker’s art. Made of quartz, a difficult material from which to make tools, it was thinned and refined to create a symmetrical, teardrop shape which added little to its usefulness. This suggests that the skill invested in producing beautiful hand-axes may have had other purposes – they may have been status symbols or used in rituals. By surpassing functional demands, hand-axes may be said to represent the earliest indication of artistic endeavour.


  • Title: Olduvai Hand-axe
  • Date Created: 800,000 - 400,000 years old
  • Physical Dimensions: 13.5 x 9 x 4.5 cm
  • Subject Keywords: India & the World, IatW
  • Medium: Quartz
  • Province: Found in Olduvai Gorge, Tanzania
  • Collection: The British Museum
  • Accession no. : 1934,1214.83

Get the app

Explore museums and play with Art Transfer, Pocket Galleries, Art Selfie, and more

Flash this QR Code to get the app
Google apps