Flint handaxe from Ras Abruq, western Qatar
Lower Palaeolithic Period
Object Name: Handaxe
Period: Lower Palaeolithic Period
Date: 300,000-40,000BCE
Provenance: Qatar
Dimensions: 11.12 x 8.91 x 2.51 cm
Medium: flint
Registration Number: QNM.2011.393.1
Place Of Discovery/Findspot:  Ras Abruq
This tool is made from a large piece of flat flint (hard, durable stone). The flint’s original surface is still visible in the centre, while flakes have been removed from its edges. Known as retouching, the removal of these flakes created sharp edges and a shape suitable to hold. The flint would have been used as a multi-purpose tool for cutting and butchering hunted animals for food, for splitting bones and for cutting organic materials such as wood and other plants.

This example comes from a site on the Ras Abruq Peninsula in western Qatar. It was found on the surface of the site rather than buried under layers of materials (strata) such as soil and sediments. It may date to the Lower Palaeolithic period (early part of the Stone Age) as the technique used to shape it is similar to that found on stone tools from the Acheulean industry. The Acheulean stone industry was a technological tradition wherein toolmaking became standardised. This industry appeared in East Africa 1.76 million years ago and was still in use in some areas up until 150,000 years ago.
Palaeolithic Period: 300,000–8000 BCE

The Palaeolithic period has generally not been well documented on the western shores of the Gulf. This is because most remains have been submerged under the waters of the Arabian Gulf due to geological conditions. Before 14,000 BCE the land was dry, after which the sea level began to rise and gradually flood the land. This continued until about 7,500 BCE when the sea stopped rising and the shoreline was left as we know it today.

As part of the Tigris-Euphrates river system, the land that is now the Gulf was lush and green, offering its inhabitants the basic means for survival including plants to gather and animals to hunt. One of the earliest pieces of evidence of human activity which has been passed down to us is the lithic industry, where types of stone were worked through various techniques to create tools. These objects have been able to withstand the test of time mainly due to the hardness of their material.
The Palaeolithic, or Old Stone Age, is one of the major periods of prehistory and is characterised by the appearance of the first human species. This period is also known as the ‘Carved Stone Age’, as humans used and worked stones to create tools. The first basic tools were simple cutting, chopping and grinding tools, later evolving into more and more complex forms that were increasingly difficult to make. This period is divided chronologically into three periods: the Lower, Middle and Upper Palaeolithic, the dates of which vary between continents and populations.
SMITH, G. H. and OATES, J., 1978, “Two prehistoric sites on Ras Abruq, Site 4” in B. De Cardi ed., Qatar Archaeological Report: Excavations 1973, The Qatar National Museum and Oxford University Press, Chap. 8, pp. 84–106, Fig. 5.1.
Ras Abruq