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Identification and Creation

Object Number
Axe Head
Weapons and Ammunition
Work Type
3rd millennium BCE
Creation Place: Ancient & Byzantine World, Asia, Anatolia
Bronze Age
Persistent Link

Physical Descriptions

Arsenical copper
Cast, lost-wax process
14.7 x 5.9 cm (5 13/16 x 2 5/16 in.)
Technical Details

Chemical Composition: ICP-MS/AAA data from sample, Arsenical Copper:
Cu, 95.19; Sn, less than 0.25; Pb, 0.05; Zn, less than 0.001; Fe, 0.74; Ni, 0.53; Ag, 0.05; Sb, 0.09; As, 3.36; Bi, less than 0.025; Co, less than 0.01; Au, less than 0.01; Cd, less than 0.001
J. Riederer

Technical Observations: The patina is a mottled chocolate brown and light green with coppery metal shining through in a few worn areas. The surface has probably been waxed. Some cuprite and pitting is present. The blade end is mildly dented and notched in a few areas, probably from use.

The object features a simple flat shape that was cast in bivalve mold. Chatter marks and traces of hammering and filing are present on the body of the implement and on the edges from both its original finishing and a later cleaning.

Francesca G. Bewer (submitted 2012)


Recorded Ownership History
Louise M. and George E. Bates, Camden, ME (by 1971-1992), gift; to the Harvard University Art Museums, 1992.

Acquisition and Rights

Credit Line
Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Gift of Louise M. and George E. Bates
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
This type of thin, flat, unhafted axe blade was widespread throughout the Aegean, Anatolia, and western Asia during the third millennium BCE (1). It flares out very slightly at the subtly curved cutting edge and tapers, also slightly, to the rounded butt at the opposite end. It is unclear whether these objects were meant to be used by themselves, or were inserted into the ends of wooden or bone handles. It is also unclear whether they were tools for cutting, shaving, or smoothing wood.


1. Axes generally similar in shape from the collections of the Royal Ontario Museum are published in J. W. Hayes, Ancient Metal Axes and Other Tools in the Royal Ontario Museum: European and Mediterranean Types (Toronto, 1991) 5-8, nos. 2-8. All seem to be from the third millennium BCE. The reported findspots of these objects range from eastern Europe to Cyprus.

David G. Mitten

Subjects and Contexts

  • Ancient Bronzes

Related Works

Verification Level

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