This metabasalt axe is from the Selwyn Range, northwestern Queensland, Australia, and dates to the Late Holocene, after 5000 BP.
This axe is from a surface site in the Selwyn Range near Mt Isa in northwest Queensland. The stone likely derived from the Lake Moondarra axe quarry, one of the largest stone axe quarries in Australia. The quarry is on the traditional country of the Kalkadoon people. Stone axes from this quarry were extensively traded, with axes found up to 1000 km from the source. The axe in this model was manufactured by hard-hammer percussion flaking followed by edge-grinding. Fine pecking was applied to reduce the thickness of the axe in one area (the flake scars there may have terminated in steps), and coarser pecking was applied across both faces. The coarser pecking was done over the edge-grinding. The morphology of the axe suggests that it may have been resharpened more than once before it was discarded.
The axe is part of the Archaeology and Palaeoanthropology teaching collection, University of New England.
The earliest-known edge-ground stone axes in the world are found in archaeological sites in Australia, and are over 40,000 years old. They were made continuously from the earliest occupation of the continent through to the recent past, and are still made in New Guinea today. Stone axes were made in vast numbers during the Middle and Late Holocene period, from about 10,000 years ago, and Aboriginal people developed extensive trade networks for axes made of particularly prized stones. The anthropologist W. E. H. Stanner, writing in 1933 about ceremonial trade on the Daly River of the Northern Territory, said that ‘there can be nothing more useless in the native economy than a pile of [stone axes] with nowhere to send them.’ Axes were also symbolically and ritually important, with story sites for axe quarries and mythological figures wielding stone axes as weapons. For instance, Namarrkon, an Ancestral Being in Arnhem Land in Northern Australia, uses stone axes affixed to his head, elbows, and knees to create the intense lightning in storms that signal the arrival of the monsoon. Axes were integrated within the cultural system in the historic period, and axe manufacture and use was embedded in various social roles. Stone axes in the recent past were usually mounted onto thin wood handles and affixed with plant resin or native bees wax.