This notched igneous stone axe is from Peru, likely made during the Inca Empire.
The expert workmanship and lack of use-damage may indicate that this was a ‘prestige’ axe rather than a functional tool. The notches may have been cut in with string and an abrasive.
The axe is curated by the Ministerio de Cultura Peru.
Edge-ground stone axes excavated from sites in Brazil are among the oldest in the Americas, dating between 10,000 and 11,000 BP. They are pebbles with ground edges, sometimes with prior shaping by percussion flaking. Similar axes continued to be made and used until the 1970s by the Manoki people of the Amazon Basin.
Ungrooved axes and adzes (called ‘celts’), dating from about 2700 BP as part of the Tairona archaeological culture, are found in large numbers in Colombia. These rectangular-sectioned tools were expertly ground and polished from a variety of raw materials, and were extensively traded throughout the region. They are associated with an agricultural economy and were likely used to clear forests in the Caribbean lowlands. Some examples flare outwards at the cutting edge, and their high degree of refinement suggests that they may have served as status symbols. An elongated celt with carved faces on one end demonstrates that axes were of considerable cultural significance during this period.
Celts were also made in Ecuador and Peru, but many were elaborated on the butt-end with side notches, presumably as an aid to hafting. The notches may have been cut with a string and abrasive. Certain celts were manufactured with flanges or ‘lugs’ at the butt end (creating a T-shaped outline). Axes with lugs were made into the historic period in Ecuador; they were hafted by tying the axe onto the handle and thickly coating the binding with bees wax and mastic. In some regions, the flanges were cut in on the distal sides to create distinctive ears. Some axes were perforated with a hole as an aid to hafting. The considerable variety of axe shapes tracked spatial and temporal changes in axe styles across northern South America. Axes found in Ecuador are sometimes used nowadays as children’s toys.