Modelling the end of the Acheulean at global and continental levels suggests widespread persistence into the Middle Palaeolithic
The Acheulean is the longest cultural tradition ever practised by humans, lasting for over 1.5 million years. Yet, its end has never been accurately dated; only broad 300–150 thousand years ago (Kya) estimates exist. Here we use optimal linear estimation modelling to infer the extinction dates of the Acheulean at global and continental levels. In Africa and the Near East the Acheulean is demonstrated to end between 175 and 166 Kya. In Europe it is inferred to end between 141 and 130 Kya. The Acheulean’s extinction in Asia occurs later (57–53 Kya), while global models vary depending on how archaeological sites are selected (107–29 Kya). These models demonstrate the Acheulean to have remained a distinct cultural tradition long after the inception of Middle Palaeolithic technologies in multiple continental regions. The complexity of this scenario mirrors the increasingly dynamic nature of the Middle Pleistocene hominin fossil record, suggesting contemporaneous hominin populations to have practised distinct stone-tool traditions.