Keys to the Past

Glossary

Stone axe

A piece of stone shaped into the form of an axe. This may have been held at the end by a piece of wood, or from a hole in the stone. The nature of the stone was of particular importance - and may have been imported to the region from some distance. For example, basalt volcanic rock could be used, or as flint. Classifications have been developed using the rock type, as well as the dimensions of the axe itself.

Some of the Neolithic and Bronze Age axes were produced at 'factory-like' sites in The Lake District, Cumbria, and imported to the northeast. The most common rock types used have been numbered, e.g. that for the Langdale (Lake District) axes is Group VI. Some axes may have been produced locally - volcanic whin is the Group XVIII, and Cheviot andesite been used. Sometimes stone axes were of special colours, such as jade greens, or miniature size for possible ritual use. (Such a miniature axe was found at Newstead Bog, Northumberland).

Post-Medieval superstition sometimes used prehistoric stone axes as 'witch hammers' - protecting the inhabitants of a building (whether human or animal) from spells. Such an example is recorded for a Cotherstone barn, (County Durham).

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