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Identification and Creation
Object Number
Flanged Axe Head
Weapons and Ammunition
Work Type
2nd millennium BCE
Creation Place: Ancient & Byzantine World, Europe, Ireland (Ancient)
Bronze Age, Early
Persistent Link
Physical Descriptions
Copper alloy
Cast, lost-wax process
6.3 x 1.4 x 11.7 cm (2 1/2 x 9/16 x 4 5/8 in.)
Technical Details

Technical Observations: The patina is a thin mottled green. Only one small area has what looks like cuprite; otherwise, there is no evidence of deep corrosion and cuprite below the green layer, as one would expect with an ancient object. There is some porosity in the cast. There are rough file marks running horizontally across the blade end, as though to sharpen it, that have exposed the metal. The blade is also notched at approximately even intervals, which suggests that these dents were fashioned intentionally rather than the result of use.

The axe was cast in a bivalve mold; the flashes that formed along the mold seam lines were filed, chiseled, and hammered down on the sides of the axe. There are fine hammer marks across the body of the implement as well as what appear to be fine parallel striations from a toothed tool that was probably used to file the surface.

Francesca G. Bewer (submitted 2012)

W. C. Burriss Young, Cambridge, MA, bequest; to the Harvard University Art Museums, 2002.
Acquisition and Rights
Credit Line
Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Bequest of W.C. Burriss Young
Accession Year
Object Number
Asian and Mediterranean Art
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Published Catalogue Text: Ancient Mediterranean and Near Eastern Bronzes at the Harvard Art Museums
The blade of this axe flares out at the edges, and a series of dents along the edge indicate use. From 6.3 cm at the widest part of the blade the handle tapers to 1.9 cm at the butt. The thickness of the handle also tapers toward the blade and butt, being thickest at the middle. This type of axe head sometimes bears decorative marks between the blade and the thickest section of the handle; in this case, it consists of a series of shallow impressions curving from one flange to the other (1). The low, curving flanges of the handle maintain a fairly uniform width, rising from the blade toward the butt, where they are at their most prominent from the handle. There is some metal displacement on the edge of the butt as well.


1. See, for example, P. Harbison, The Axes of the Early Bronze Age in Ireland, Prähistorische Bronzefunde 9.1 (Munich, 1969) nos. 1692, 1700, 1704, 1719, 1831, and 1850, pls. 69.14-15, 69.21, 70.13, 74.15, and 75.2. See also ibid., no. 1110, pl. 50.3 for comparable decoration; and K. Kibbert, Die Äxte und Beile im mittleren Westdeutschland 1, Prähistorische Bronzefunde 9.10 (Munich, 1980) 105, no. 104, pl. 9, although the cutting edge more resembles ibid., 113, no. 135, pl. 11; this axe is comparable to an axe head from the parish of Well in North Yorkshire, recorded by the Portable Antiquities Scheme , inv. no. DUR-863704, and dated to c. 1700-1500 BCE.

Lisa M. Anderson

Exhibition History

32Q: 3620 University Study Gallery, Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, 08/17/2017 - 01/07/2018

Subjects and Contexts

Ancient Bronzes

Related Works

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