Incorrect Username, Email, or Password
This object does not yet have a description.

Identification and Creation

Object Number
Battle Axe Head
Weapons and Ammunition
Work Type
19th-18th century BCE
Creation Place: Ancient & Byzantine World, Asia, Syria
Bronze Age, Middle
Persistent Link

Physical Descriptions

Leaded arsenical copper
Cast, lost-wax process
10.7 x 9.6 cm (4 3/16 x 3 3/4 in.)
Technical Details

Chemical Composition: ICP-MS/AAA data from sample, Leaded Arsenical Copper:
Cu, 66.79; Sn, less than 0.25; Pb, 30.28; Zn, 0.003; Fe, 0.14; Ni, 0.02; Ag, 0.03; Sb, 0.05; As, 2.69; 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 solid blade was cast in one piece. The very crisp edges and simplification of the forms suggests that, rather than having been made by the lost-wax process, it could have been cast in a piece-mold made up of three to five pieces that defined the main front and back of the blade and an oval-sectioned cylindrical piece that defined the socket for the shaft. The socket section could have been made in two halves, each of which could have extended perpendicularly to create the flat edges of the blade. It is not clear whether the six facets that run across the back of the axe head were defined in the mold or created in the metal. The topography of the blade on each side of the axe is not identical; accretions obscure the surface and any finer evidence of tool marks. The wall thickness where the handle would have been inserted is c. 2.2 to 2.5 mm.

Overall, the object is in good condition. Some loss at the edges of the axe blade due to mineralization have occurred, some of which have been covered up with a waxy or resinous coating. A few long, intentional scrape marks on one side of the axe blade expose a green corrosion layer above a cupritic layer and probably result from an attempt to clean the piece. Mottled tan and pink burial accretions have been darkened to a light brown by a waxy or resinous coating in some areas and cover light green corrosion products.

Tracy Richardson and Francesca G. Bewer (submitted 1999, updated 2012)


Recorded Ownership History
Richard R. Wagner, gift; to the Fogg Museum, 1968.

Acquisition and Rights

Credit Line
Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Gift of Richard R. Wagner
Accession Year
Object Number
Asian and Mediterranean Art

The Harvard Art Museums encourage the use of images found on this website for personal, noncommercial use, including educational and scholarly purposes. To request a higher resolution file of this image, please submit an online request.


Published Catalogue Text: Ancient Mediterranean and Near Eastern Bronzes at the Harvard Art Museums
Two varieties of this type of perforated copper alloy shaft-hole axe are known from central Anatolia, the Levant, and Mesopotamia. They are often referred to as “fenestrated axes.” This piece belongs to the second form, called the “duck bill axe,” which is a long, slender axe with a carination running between the perforations along the length of the blade to the cutting edge (1). This type is mostly found in Syria and Lebanon, with at least one stray example known from central Anatolia. A general date of around 1900-1700 BCE seems to accord with the examples recovered from controlled stratigraphic contexts.


1. For detailed discussion, see H. Erkanal, Die Äxte und Beile des 2. Jahrtausends in Zentralanatolien, Prähistorische Bronzefunde 9.8 (Munich, 1997) 22-26 and 69-70, pl. 6; R. Maxwell-Hyslop, “Western Asiatic Shaft-Hole Axes,” Iraq 11 (1949): 90-130, esp. 119-21, no. 7, pl. 37 (the Harvard example belongs to type B4); and P. R. S. Moorey, Catalogue of the Ancient Persian Bronzes in the Ashmolean Museum (Oxford, 1971) 57-58, no. 24.

David G. Mitten

Publication History

  • Séan Hemingway, "The Age of Bronze in Greece, Cyprus, and the Near East", Ancient Bronzes through a Modern Lens: Introductory Essays on the Study of Ancient Mediterranean and Near Eastern Bronzes, ed. Susanne Ebbinghaus, Harvard Art Museums (Cambridge, MA, 2014), 20-37, p. 30, fig. 1.6.
  • Susanne Ebbinghaus, ed., Ancient Bronzes through a Modern Lens: Introductory Essays on the Study of Ancient Mediterranean and Near Eastern Bronzes, Harvard Art Museum/Yale University Press (Cambridge, MA, 2014), p. 30, 73, fig. 1.6

Subjects and Contexts

  • Ancient Bronzes

Verification Level

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