This basalt axe is from southwest Queensland. It was collected during a collaborative research project between archaeologists and Traditional Owners to better understand the deep history of the Mithaka People.
The artefact is on loan to Archaeology and Palaeoanthropology, University New England, catalogue name ML23 MIN1.
See the annotations for technological details about this stone tool.
The axe in this model was made on a large flat piece of igneous rock. One face is marked by the weathered cortical surface of the stone, and the opposite face is a cleavage plane. It is possible that the latter face is the original ventral surface of a very large flake, although the flat profile is more consistent with a cleavage plane. The edges of the axe were shaped by bifacial flaking. Pecking was then done in scattered locations on both faces mainly to lower the profile of arrises created by flaking. A ground edge was prepared at one of the axe, and light grinding also extended across both flat surfaces. The lateral edges on the cutting-edge end of the axe were rounded slightly by grinding. In contrast, the lateral edges on the butt-end of the axe were dulled and slightly rounded by light pecking directly onto the bifacial edge. The edge-pecking appears to have followed the edge-grinding, partly removing it. The edge-pecking starts at about the same location on either edge of the axe, and it is possible that this was done during the hafting with a wrap-around handle. Most of the ground edge was removed by unifacial flaking. The reason for this flaking through the ground edge is unclear, but presumably it related to the last use of the axe prior to discard.
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.