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Identification and Creation
Object Number
1992.256.132
Title
Axe Head
Classification
Weapons and Ammunition
Work Type
axe
Date
3rd Millennium BCE
Places
Creation Place: Ancient & Byzantine World, Asia, Syria, Northern Syria
Period
Bronze Age, Early
Culture
Syro-Hittite
Persistent Link
https://hvrd.art/o/304597
Physical Descriptions
Medium
Copper
Technique
Cast, lost-wax process
Dimensions
10.7 x 4 x 0.7 cm (4 3/16 x 1 9/16 x 1/4 in.)
Technical Details

Chemical Composition: ICP-MS/AAA data from sample, Copper:
Cu, 98.75; Sn, 0.78; Pb, 0.14; Zn, 0.004; Fe, 0.01; Ni, 0.12; Ag, 0.04; Sb, less than 0.05; As, 0.16; Bi, less than 0.025; Co, less than 0.01; Au, less than 0.02; Cd, less than 0.002
J. Riederer

Technical Observations: The patina is brown with areas of green corrosion products and tan burial deposits. A minor deformation is visible on the sharpened edge. The axe head was cast and probably worked to shape the cutting edge. Tool marks for finishing are evident on the brown surface.


Carol Snow (submitted 2002)

Provenance
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
1992
Object Number
1992.256.132
Division
Asian and Mediterranean Art
Contact
am_asianmediterranean@harvard.edu
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Descriptions

Published Catalogue Text: Ancient Mediterranean and Near Eastern Bronzes at the Harvard Art Museums
The two axe heads, 1992.256.132 and 1992.256.133, which are almost identical in form and almost certainly contemporary, represent an early form of unhafted axe blade that was widespread throughout the Aegean, Anatolia, and western Asia during the third millennium BCE (1). It is patterned after ground stone prototypes. These axes are cast. They taper from the corners of the cutting edge toward the rounded butt at the opposite end. Both axes have convexly curving cutting edges, with one face beveled down to the edge and squared-off, vertical sides. Both also have a dark brownish surface covered in some areas with a rough greenish gray. The surface of one axe (1992.256.133) is strangely pitted on one side. It is not clear whether this preserves the original metal surface, or if the pitting is part of the incrustation products that cover the original surface. The close similarity of these two objects suggests that they may have been part of a larger horde of such axes, perhaps used for barter or exchange. 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.

NOTES:

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 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

This record has been reviewed by the curatorial staff but may be incomplete. Our records are frequently revised and enhanced. For more information please contact the Division of Asian and Mediterranean Art at am_asianmediterranean@harvard.edu