This hafted stone axe is from the Southern Highlands of New Guinea. The edge of the axe was deliberately hafted at an angle to the axis of the handle to suit the user’s chopping motion.
The provenance of this axe is unknown, although identical axes were still being made and used in the settlement of Puya-kira’go in the Southern Highlands of New Guinea in 1975, as described by the famous Danish ethnographer and archaeologist Axel Steensberg. The hafted axe was made by two men. One of them cut two pieces of wood: a short socket to hold the axe blade, and a handle to hold the socket. The handle was made from a forked section of tree which was heated and bent into the desired shape. The socket was made from a split section of branch with both sides hollowed-out to receive the stone axe. The stone axe itself was acquired from a neighbouring group. The lashings were made by a second man by splitting rattan cane into a narrow strips using a chert flake. The rattan strips were thinned by scraping with the flake tool. The rattan was used by the first man to bind the axe into the socket, ‘a process which required all his strength,’ and then the socket was bound to the handle, which also took considerable physical effort. The socket was deliberately rotated to an angle of about 30 degrees to the handle. Even though the handle was cut and shaped with steel tools, the hafting process took about 5 hours. The elastic nature of the rattan lashing allowed the axe to be swung at full strength in cutting down a tree.
The axe is part of the Macquarie University cultural heritage collection.