'World's oldest hafted axe' may not have had a handle after all (2022)

Two leading Australian archaeology experts have admitted they have no direct evidence for their claims this week to have found the world's oldest axe with a handle.

A statement issued by the Australian National University said 'the world's oldest hafted axe' – one with a handle - had been found in Western Australia.

Dated to between 46,000 and 49,000 years old, this meant aboriginal colonists likely invented the world's leading technology at the time - and were at least 11,000 years ahead of any other humans.

But these claims have now been called into question.

Two leading archaeology experts have admitted they have no direct evidence for their claims this week to have found the world's oldest axe with a handle. A statement issued by the Australian National University said 'the world's oldest hafted axe' – one with a handle - had been found in Western Australia (pictured)

The ANU statement was based on an academic paper published in the journal Australian Archaeology, in which Professor Peter Hiscock of the University of Sydney, and Professor Susan O'Connor of ANU described their discovery of fingernail-sized rock fragments from a cave in the Kimberley region.

These showed the tell-tale signs of having been manually worked to produce a ground edge.

Radiocarbon dating of charcoal found alongside the fragments provided the estimate of the axe's age.

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(Video) World's oldest axe found in WA's Kimberley

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When questioned by MailOnline about how small samples from the cutting edge of a stone tool could prove the tool had a handle, both Professor Hiscock and Professor O'Connor acknowledged there was no such evidence.

NO EVIDENCE FOR THE CLAIMS

A hafted axe is an axe with a handle attached.

Stone hand axes have been dated to over 3 million years, but the Australian find was said to be the earliest axe to have had a fully formed handle.

The latest reportssuggest the technology was developed in Australia after people arrived around 50,000 years ago.

However, when questioned by MailOnline about how small samples from the cutting edge of a stone tool could prove the tool had a handle, researchers there was no such evidence.

One added whole axes have been found in Australia dating to about 25,000 years and they have features such as handle 'waists.'

Another said: 'We hypothesise it may well have been hafted, though of course we acknowledge that it cannot be tested.

'Design and context features make me feel the likelihood is high. But who knows?'

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Susan O'Connor replied to enquiries by acknowledging it is 'not possible to know from such small pieces that it was hafted.'

But she added whole axes have been found in Australia which date to about 25,000 years and they have features such as 'waists' for the haft.

(Video) ELDEN RING - How to Get the 'CLAYMORE' & 'Long Haft Axe'

As part of the research, O'Connor said the team 'inferred' these flakes came from a hafted tool.

Peter Hiscock endorsed this position.

'We hypothesise it may well have been hafted, though of course we acknowledge that it cannot be tested. Design and context features make me feel the likelihood is high. But who knows?'

Stone hand axes have been dated to over 3 million years, but the Australian find was said to be the earliest axe to have had a fully formed handle.

Fragments of the axe were unearthed from a cave in Windjana Gorge National Park in Western Australia more than 20 years ago, but have only now been recognised for their significance.

The archaeologists said the axe - which was found without a handle attached - dates to between 46,000 and 49,000 years ago, shortly after people first arrived in Australia.

This would make it at least 11,000 years older than the previous record holder, an axe found in Japan.

The axe fragments (pictured) were unearthed in Kimberley, Western Australia in the 1990s. When questioned about how small samples from the cutting edge of a stone tool could prove the tool had a handle, both researchers admitted they had no evidence, with one saying: 'Who knows?'

Stone tools first emerged more than 3 million years ago, but analysis of the samples may be the earliest example of hafted axe technology ever being used. Researchers said other regions don't show evidence of this type of tool use until around 10,000 years ago. Pictured are examples of full axe heads examples

What made the new findings so significant is that throughout the rest of the world, hafted axes do not appear until just 10,000 years ago.

The samples suggested the technology was invented in Australia, and not imported when the first people arrived about 50,000 years ago.

'We know that they didn't have axes where they came from. There are no axes in the islands to the north,' said Professor O'Connor earlier this week. 'They arrived in Australia and innovated.'

(Video) The Origin and Evolution of Axes (The First Tool)

The axe fragments measure just a few millimetres andwere first discovered by Professor O'Connor in the early 1990s, from a large rock shelter known as Carpenter's Gap 1.

OLDEST HAFTED AXE POINTS TOABORIGINEORIGINS

The axe fragment was unearthed in Kimberley, Western Australia in 1990s inWindjana Gorge National Park.

New analysis of the fragment show it is made of fine-grained basalt rock which was shaped by grinding it against much softer rocks, such as sandstone, giving it its edge and polished finish.

Researchers believe it would have been used as a tool to cut down trees and sharpen wooden spear heads.

While the earliest stone tools emerged 3.4 million years ago, ground-edged tools such as the axe, emerged much later.

According to the Australian researchers, their fragment could be between 46,000 and 49,000 years old.

The team said evidence of this type of hafted stone axe didn't emerge in other parts of the world until as recently as around 10,000 years ago.

However, these claims have now been called into question.

The axe fragment was unearthed in Kimberley, Western Australia in 1990s. Researchers believe the fragment may be significantly older than the earliest axe found in Japan, which coincides with aborigines first arriving on the Australian continent

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(Video) It's not impossible to haft a handaxe efficiently (without leaving evidence)

The flakes were analysed by Professor Peter Hiscock from the University of Sydney.

'The question of when axes were invented has been pursued for decades, since archaeologists discovered that in Australia axes were older than in many other places,' he said.

'Now we have a discovery that appears to answer the question.'

The analysis of fragments revealed the axe is made of basalt that has been shaped and polished by grinding it against a softer rock like sandstone.

Researchers Tim Maloney and Sue O'Connor (pictured left and right with examples of early axe technology) led the latest analysis of the axe fragments. They believe the technology may have been invented in Australia after the first people arrived on the continent

Pictured is a complete axe head, an example of early stone age tools. Such tools would have been fundamental to life of first Australian settlers, but if the samples found were from an advanced hafted axe technology, it hints that these early Aboriginal peoples were more advanced than previously thought

The archaeologists said the axe would have been used for a variety of tasks including making spears and chopping down trees.

But it seems the inventors did not export their new hafted axe technology. Although humans spread across Australia, axes were only made in the tropical north.

Carpenter's Gap 1, where the fragments were found, is a site of great archaeological importance in Australia.

The large limestone rock shelter is believed to have been almost continuously occupied since the first humans arrived around 50,000 years ago.

Excavations have revealed fragments of marine shells and shell beads, which must have been transported at least 100 km (60 miles) from the sea.

The roof and walls of the shelter are covered in pictographs and motifs including animal tracks, made using red, yellow, brown, and white ochre and charcoal.

(Video) Hafting an Axe Head - Green Woodworking

Pictured is an example of a complete axe head. The researchers believe this would be similar to the one that the 47,000- to 49,000-year-old axe fragments came from

FAQs

What is the oldest axe found? ›

A tiny stone fragment from north-western Australia is a remnant of the earliest known axe with a handle, archaeologists have claimed. The fingernail-sized sliver of basalt is ground smooth at one end and appears to date from 44 to 49,000 years ago.

When was the first stone axe found? ›

Early humans were using stone hand axes as far back as 1.8 million years ago. Credit: Pierre-Jean Texier, National Center of Scientific Research, France. Homo erectus appeared about 2 million years ago, and ranged across Asia and Africa before hitting a possible evolutionary dead-end, about 70,000 years ago.

Where was axe discovered? ›

But in most countries in the world they arrive with agriculture 10,000 years ago,” she said. The researchers say the axe was probably invented in Australia, since there is no evidence of similar tools in south-east Asia, from where the migrants came.

What was the first axe made of? ›

The first true hafted axes are known from the Mesolithic period (ca. 6000 BC), where axes made from antler were used that continued to be utilized in the Neolithic in some areas. Chopping tools made from flint were hafted as adzes. Axes made from ground stone are known since the Neolithic.

Who used the first axe? ›

Copper-bladed axes appeared in Egypt about 4000 bc and were followed by axes with blades of bronze and eventually iron; blades were fastened to hafts by a variety of means—e.g., lashed into a wooden sleeve, bound into a split of wood, inserted in a bone socket.

What God used an axe? ›

According to Greek mythology Hephaestus, god of blacksmiths, struck Zeus, Father of the Gods, over the head with his double-headed axe.

What did people use before the axe? ›

Archaeologists estimate that our early ancestors were using simple chipped stone wedges as hand axes over 1.5 million years ago. Around 6,000 BC, Mesolithic humans started fastening their stone wedges to a handle — often made from antler or bone — with rawhide lashings.

Why do axes have beards? ›

The hook or "beard", i. e. the lower portion of the axe bit extending the cutting edge below the width of the butt, provides a wide cutting surface while keeping the overall mass of the axe low.

Why are axe heads red? ›

Why are axes painted red? Axe heads are painted to stop corrosion, but bright colors (like red) are used for visibility in the woods, safety, and marketing. Red has been common in the US and has become the iconic color because of American media, but blue, yellow, black, and gold are all common axe colors as well.

What is the head of an axe called? ›

The Parts of an Axe Head. The head of an axe has two ends — the bit or blade on one side, and the poll or butt on the other. The axe head, often referred to as “the business end” of the axe, functions as a mechanical wedge.

What is a big axe called? ›

Felling Axes

That's our way of simplifying things, as a big axe is really just what we call a felling axe. If you really do need to cut down a tree and don't have access to a chainsaw, the felling axe is the one you should use.

What was the second axe made of? ›

It's only the second hand axe made out of bone that scientists have ever come across. This 1.4-million-year-old hand axe is made out of a hippo's thigh bone.

What is a small axe called? ›

Hatchet: A small, light axe designed for use in one hand specifically while camping or travelling.

What is a fist axe? ›

A hand axe (or handaxe or Acheulean hand axe) is a prehistoric stone tool with two faces that is the longest-used tool in human history, yet there is no academic consensus on what they were used for.

What does axe symbolize? ›

The axe is one of the oldest tools developed by humans; since the Neolithic age, it has been a symbol of battle and work. All ancient traditions associated the axe with lightning, water, and fertility, and attributed to it the power of making or stopping rain.

What is an axe head made of? ›

An axe head was made of two parts: an iron or softer (and cheaper) steel head and a harder steel bit. The steel bit was forge welded to the blade to create the axe head.

What is a hammer axe called? ›

A splitting maul also known as a block buster, block splitter, chop and maul, sledge axe, go-devil or hamaxe is a heavy, long-handled axe used for splitting a piece of wood along its grain. One side of its head is like a sledgehammer, and the other side is like an axe.

What does the Bible say about an axe? ›

The Symbol of God Judgment

In Matthew 3:10, the Bible says, “The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.” This is a pronouncement of God's judgment upon the people who will not repent and live a righteous life.

What does axe mean in the Bible? ›

Bible Dictionaries - Easton's Bible Dictionary - Axe. Axe. used in the Authorized Version of Deuteronomy 19:5 ; 20:19 ; 1 Kings 6:7 , as the translation of a Hebrew word which means "chopping." It was used for felling trees ( Isaiah 10:34 ) and hewing timber for building.

What the Bible Says About battle axe? ›

In that Jeremiah 51:20, God said ” you are my battle axe and you are to break into pieces 10 things”: The nations. The kingdoms.

Did Vikings actually throw axes? ›

Vikings most commonly carried sturdy axes that could be thrown or swung with head-splitting force. The Mammen Axe is a famous example of such battle-axes, ideally suited for throwing and melee combat. An axe head was mostly wrought iron, with a steel cutting edge.

Did people really throw axes? ›

In the late Middle Ages, throwing axes were common. They were made of iron and were often used by both foot soldiers and knights. Europeans brought them to the New World. They provided them as tomahawks to the Native Americans.

What is axe throwing called? ›

A hurlbat (or whirlbat, whorlbat) is the term used for a type of weapon with unclear original definition. Older reference works refer to it largely as a type of club, either held in the hand or possibly thrown. Modern usage appears to refer to a type of throwing-axe.

What type of axe did Vikings use? ›

The Dane axe is an early type of battle axe, primarily used during the transition between the European Viking Age and early Middle Ages. Other names for the weapon include English long axe, Danish axe, and hafted axe.

Can an axe cut through metal? ›

You can absolutely penetrate copper body armor with a steel axe, and it wouldn't even need to be a two-handed axe. For the record, though … though Copper Age was about 7,000 years ago. That was millennia prior to people using steel for …

Are Husky axes any good? ›

Husky just makes extremely durable and useful products. This axe is no exception. First of all, it feels great in the hand.

Why are axe blades curved? ›

The bit (blade) of an axe is curved primarily to cut deeper. The force of the swing is concentrated into the small point on the blade that makes first contact with the wood, driving it deeper. This is called point loading. A curve also makes the cutting edge longer and lets an axe rock-free if stuck.

Should axe heads be painted? ›

You do not want to paint any striking or chopping part of an axe head. Paint on the striking end will cause your axe to slip when hitting something.

Why are axe handles painted? ›

Apparently the origin of painting axe handles was to allow lumberjacks to mark their own axes whilst out in the forest. It also makes them easier to spot when laid on the ground.

What is a fireman's axe called? ›

Wikipedia. The Pulaski was created in the years just following the 1910 Big Burn by U.S. Forest Service Ranger Ed Pulaski, and it continues to be used by wildland firefighters to this day. The tool is a combination of a fire axe and an adze (or hoe), allowing firefighters to chop or dig with the flip of a wrist.

What is the end of an axe handle called? ›

You can divide it into two main parts: the Head and the Haft. Starting at the bottom of the haft, or handle, we have the End Knob. The end knob provides extra material to help prevent the axe from slipping out of your grip. Above the end knob, the haft curves back.

What is a curved axe called? ›

Michigan Axe. This axe is a common shape for felling axes, having originally risen to popularity in the 1860s. It has a curved head, which is ideal for chopping large trees and dense wood types.

What did Viking axes weigh? ›

Handforged Viking Swords, Axes and Knives
Battle AxeThrowing Axe
Full Length24 inches14 Inches
Blade Length6 Inches6.25 Inches
Weight2.16 lb1.87 lb
Sheath
5 more rows

Why do axe heads have a notch? ›

The notch increases the angle coming up from the heel of the blade, which leaves more space for your hand. So it's easier to choke up on the axe and use it one-handed for things like carving, or kindling.

Are axes better than swords? ›

For combat uses, the Ax is going to have better leverage and more pressure(and therefor more damage) on impact due to the smaller size of the blade but the same amount of force used when compared to the sword.

› ~rwest › wikispeedia › wpcd ›


Axe

https://www.cs.mcgill.ca › ~rwest › wikispeedia › wpcd
https://www.cs.mcgill.ca › ~rwest › wikispeedia › wpcd
The axe is an ancient and ubiquitous tool that has been used for millennia to shape, split and cut wood, harvest timber, as a weapon and a ceremonial or heraldi...
An axe is an ancient tool, with a rich history of uses including felling trees, hunting animals, and weaponry. Today, the axe is most commonly used in the yard ...

Axe

https://en.wikipedia.org › wiki › Axe
https://en.wikipedia.org › wiki › Axe
An axe is an implement that has been used for millennia to shape, split and cut wood, to harvest timber, as a weapon, and as a ceremonial or heraldic symbol. Th...

How old is the axe? ›

Before the modern axe, the stone-age hand axe without a handle was used from 1.5 million years BP. Hafted axes (those with a handle) date only from 6000 BC. The earliest examples of handled axes have heads of stone with some form of wooden handle attached (hafted) in a method to suit the available materials and use.

What God used an axe? ›

According to Greek mythology Hephaestus, god of blacksmiths, struck Zeus, Father of the Gods, over the head with his double-headed axe.

Did double headed axes exist? ›

Double-bit axes were common in North American forestry: One blade would be sharp and used for felling, whilst the other was a little blunter for limbing. As the forest workers (lumberjacks) were often away from civilisation for long periods of time they needed a way to amuse themselves.

Who invented the battle-axe? ›

Battle-axes came from the Viking age. The throwing axe was very important to the barbarians until the seventh century, when fewer barbarians were able to skillfully throw them than there were skillful archers. The handheld axe was still a favored weapon throughout the rest of the Middle Ages.

What is a Viking axe called? ›

A bearded axe, or Skeggøx (from Old Norse Skegg, "beard", and øx, "axe") refers to various axes, used as a tool and weapon, as early as the 6th century AD. It is most commonly associated with Viking Age Scandinavians.

Why are axe heads red? ›

Why are axes painted red? Axe heads are painted to stop corrosion, but bright colors (like red) are used for visibility in the woods, safety, and marketing. Red has been common in the US and has become the iconic color because of American media, but blue, yellow, black, and gold are all common axe colors as well.

What is a big axe called? ›

Felling Axes

That's our way of simplifying things, as a big axe is really just what we call a felling axe. If you really do need to cut down a tree and don't have access to a chainsaw, the felling axe is the one you should use.

What does a axe mean spiritually? ›

All ancient traditions associated the axe with lightning, water, and fertility, and attributed to it the power of making or stopping rain. It is a symbol of spiritual penetration and fertilization, as it opens the ground.

What does the Bible say about an axe? ›

The Symbol of God Judgment

In Matthew 3:10, the Bible says, “The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.” This is a pronouncement of God's judgment upon the people who will not repent and live a righteous life.

What does axe mean in the Bible? ›

Bible Dictionaries - Easton's Bible Dictionary - Axe. Axe. used in the Authorized Version of Deuteronomy 19:5 ; 20:19 ; 1 Kings 6:7 , as the translation of a Hebrew word which means "chopping." It was used for felling trees ( Isaiah 10:34 ) and hewing timber for building.

What did Viking axes weigh? ›

Handforged Viking Swords, Axes and Knives
Battle AxeThrowing Axe
Full Length24 inches14 Inches
Blade Length6 Inches6.25 Inches
Weight2.16 lb1.87 lb
Sheath
5 more rows

Are axes better than swords? ›

For combat uses, the Ax is going to have better leverage and more pressure(and therefor more damage) on impact due to the smaller size of the blade but the same amount of force used when compared to the sword.

What is axe fighting called? ›

Axe Fighting | Battleaxe | Hatchet | Tomahawk - Imperial Combat Arts.

Did Vikings use swords or axes? ›

In the Viking Age a number of different types of weapons were used: swords, axes, bows and arrows, lances and spears.

How heavy is a great axe? ›

Greataxe
NameCostWeight
Greataxe30 gp7 lbs

What does a battle-axe symbolize? ›

The axe can help you exert power over others. Soldiers have used them in battle throughout history. The other expression of power that the axe symbolizes is the power you can yield over nature, which is discussed next.

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