Type:  Facetted Axe

Location: Ghana, Africa



MoST ID: 571

Pedestal Link: https://une.pedestal3d.com/r/BDQmns0345

Model Author:  Emma Watt

This small facetted axe is from Ghana, Africa.  The facetted axes from Ghana were originally much longer, and were resharpened repeatedly before discard.  It is similar to adzes from the Kintampo Tradition, a Neolithic/Late Stone Age toolkit dating to 3200-3600 BP.  The axe is made from metavolcanic stone, and the surfaces are heavily patinated.

The axe in this model has an antiquarian collection label, but its historical provenance is unknown.  The axe is ‘Type II’ in the Balfour-Wild classification system.  Type II axes have up to 17 distinct longitudinal facets.

See the annotations for technological details about this stone tool.

Edge-ground axes appear in North Africa about 6500 BP, and stone axe- and adze-making persisted in some regions into the Iron Age.  Stone axes continued to be made into the early 20th century by the Bubi people of Bioko Island.  Axes in most part of Africa were flaked or pecked to shape, and only partially ground, but in some areas they were completely ground, and in other areas the bifacially-flaked edge was used without modification by grinding.  Distinct regional variants included axes with rounded ‘lugs’ or ‘bosses’ on the proximal end, made in East Africa, and axes with facetted cross-sections, made in the Gold Coast.  A groove was pecked into some axes as an aid to hafting onto a handle, but most lacked a groove.  Axes tended to be made from volcanic or igneous stones, although axes were frequently made on chert of flint where those materials were abundant, such as in Northwest Africa.  Stone axe-like implements were sometimes hafted onto the ends of digging sticks to break up the soil for agriculture.  Ancient stone axes are collected from archaeological sites in West Africa for use as medicine and in healing ceremonies.

These unusual facetted axes are discussed by antiquarians in a letter published in 1883.  The local people collected these ancient axes, painted them with white pigment, and suspended them on a string in doorways or built them into house walls to ward off lightning.  They were referred to as ‘god axes’ and powder was ground from them to treat rheumatism, coughs, and children’s digestive problems.  They were also affixed directly to the body, or placed in drinking water ‘to cool the heart’.  The English explorers Captain Sir Richard F. Burton and  Commander V. L. Cameron collected facetted axes from the Gold Coast (modern Ghana) during the Third Anglo-Ashanti War (1873-1874); they wrote ‘When the troops took a village I always hunted for this kind of plunder’.