Tattersall gave a genial shrug, pleased at the mystery of it. "No idea. It must have had some symbolic importance, but we can only guess what."
The axes became known as Acheulean tools, after St. Acheul, a suburb of Amiens in northern France, where the first examples were found in the nineteenth century, and contrast with the older, simpler tools known as Oldowan, originally found at Olduvai Gorge in Tanzania. In older textbooks, Oldowan tools are usually shown as blunt, rounded, hand-sized stones. In fact, paleoanthropologists now tend to believe that the tool part of Oldowan rocks were the pieces flaked off these larger stones, which could then be used for cutting.
Now here's the mystery. When early modern humans—the ones who would eventually become us—started to move out of Africa something over a hundred thousand years ago, Acheulean tools were the technology of choice. These early Homo sapiens loved their Acheulean tools, too. They carried them vast distances. Sometimes they even took unshaped rocks with them to make into tools later on. They were, in a word, devoted to the technology. But although Acheulean tools have been found throughout Africa, Europe, and western and central Asia, they have almost never been found in the Far East. This is deeply puzzling.