Type:  Modern Art, F. P. Dickson

Location: Cronulla, New South Wales



MoST ID: 6289

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

Model Author:  Mary-Anne Stone

Replica hafted stone axe like those made by the Aboriginal people of Australia.  The axe was made by the archaeologist F. P. Dickson in ca. 1968.

The artefact is curated in the University of New England Museum of Antiquities (UNEMA), catalogue number FN1968.14.1.

The axe in this model was made by F. P. Dickson in ca. 1968, probably for the archaeologist Isabel McBryde.  The axe head was made from a large flat river cobble.  The cobble was not shaped prior to edge grinding.  Dickson always ground his axes in one direction and the concave profile of the axe-grinding groove resulted in the curved cutting edge.  Because of this, the edge-grinding facets on Dickson’s axes are flat.  This distinctive morphology contrasts with most Aboriginal stone axes, which tended to be ground in several directions (resulting in more convex grinding facets).  The handle is made from a piece of wood of indeterminate species which has been bent around the axe, and secured below the head and at the end of the handle by a tight wrapping of sinew.  The contact between the handle and the axe head was packed with native beeswax, which has subsequently flaked off in several areas.

The archaeologist F. P. (Francis ‘Frank’ Percy) Dickson was an Australian scientist based in the Sydney region.  He lectured in the Philosophy of Science at the University of New South Wales, and was the author of the book on cosmology, The Bowl of Night (1968).  In the 1950s and 1960s he collected thousands of stone artefacts from the sand dunes on the Kurnell Peninsula at the mouth of Botany Bay in New South Wales.  He published the book Aboriginal Technology on these artefacts in 1968.

Dickson conducted extensive experiments in stone artefact manufacture and published papers on how to make backed microliths and quartz-flaking.  But Dickson was best-known for his experimental work on the manufacture and use of Australian edge-ground axes, which he conducted for his PhD research at Macquarie University.  His dissertation provided the basis for his book Australian Stone Hatchets:  A Study in Design and Dynamics, published in 1981, as well as several papers in scientific journals.

Dickson preferred to make axes on water-worn volcanic and metavolcanic cobbles from riverbeds, as these required minimal shaping by flaking or pecking.  He ground his axes by hand on sandstone slabs.  Dickson’s book provides valuable information on the use of grass tree (Xanthorrhoea) resin and native Australian (Tetragonula) beeswax in securing the stone head in the wrap-around handle.  It took Dickson around 5 hours to make a hafted edge-ground axe, start-to-finish.