This basalt axe is from the Northern Tablelands of New South Wales, and dates to the Late Holocene, after 5000 BP.
This axe is made from fine-grained basalt. ‘Cortex’ is the original weathered surface of a stone, and this axe has flat cortical faces on both sides. This indicates that the stone was acquired as a bedrock source, where flat tabular pieces were procured and shaped into axes. A likely source for this stone is the basalt slabs at the Daruka (Moore Creek) Axe Quarry near Tamworth, New South Wales. The Daruka axes were made by a combination of flaking and pecking, as is this axe. Flake scars on the axe were mostly eliminated by pecking and grinding, but remnant scars can be seen on both faces. The lateral margins and butt were shaped by pecking. The squared-off butt is a design feature of the axe. One face has linear percussion marks, perhaps from using the axe as a stone-flaking anvil. The location of the pitting suggests that is was used as an anvil after it was removed from the handle (alternatively, it may not have been affixed to a handle). The cutting edge was ground at two different angles, likely as a result of resharpening.
See the annotations for technological details about this stone tool.
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.