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Axes of Power!

Axe with a hole for inserting wooden haft (4500–2000 BCE) from Gods, Myths & Mortals at the Hellenic Museum.

The purpose of axes hasn’t changed over history – the ancients used them for chopping trees, cutting things up and splitting firewood, just as we do today. Early axes even helped Stone Age people clear forests to create space for what would become the first farms.

If you look closely at this Neolithic Greek axe head (or even better, see it in person at the Hellenic Museum!) you might notice a big hole in its centre. Originally, this hole would have contained something called a 'haft'. Haft is the term for the wooden handle of an axe.

Stone Age people used strong hardwoods to build their hafts. But, because wood is an organic material which decomposes over time, it is very rare to find a surviving haft that hasn’t rotted away.

Stone Age axes are found all over the world. In fact, archaeologists discovered this fragment of a stone axe in Western Australia! It was first unearthed in 1990. When archaeologists examined it more closely in 2014, they determined that this fragment is likely 49,000 years old, and part of the earliest known axe to have been crafted with a handle.

Image via Archaeology Australia

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