Of the beautiful                                                    collected by Timeless, the majority are British and of Mesolithic or Neolithic age, dating back almost twelve thousand years, although older (Palaeolithic) specimens are occasionally acquired which may date back hundreds of thousands of years.

prehistoric stone tools

The hand axe is one of the oldest tools known to man, dating back over 1.6 million years, though the oldest specimen found in the British Isles is the Happisburgh Axe discovered on the North Norfolk coast in 2000 and dating back 700,000 years.

 

Hand axes almost certainly evolved from crude chopping tools as seen below, which itself is over 1.7 million years old. 

The British Mesolithic period began with the closure of the Pleistocene Ice Age (c. 11,600 years ago) while Britain was still connected to continental Europe via a land-bridge, and lasted for five and a half millennia until the beginning of the Neolithic period around 4000 BCE.
 
Stone tools began to be replaced with copper (and later, bronze; a copper alloy) around fifteen hundred years later, circa 2500 BCE, at which point the British stone age drew to a close.
 
 

Lower Palaeolithic flint chopping tool from the Olduvai Gorge, Tanzanian Rift Valley. 

Upper Palaeolithic flint hand axe, North Norfolk foreshore.

The                                          was a broad, pear-shaped stone tool brought to an even point and roughly knapped. It probably had multiple uses — everything from butchering animals to digging up tubers — and the design was gradually refined over tens of thousands of years to include knives, scrapers, burins, awls and arrowheads.

 

The earliest hand axes were produced by knocking flint cores against an ‘anvil stone’ to form a crude cutting edge around the entire tool...

Later, prehistoric toolmakers developed the use of ‘hammer stones’ to knap the whole surface of the flint core to form the familiar straight edged, ovate implements as seen above.

Finally, towards the end of the Palaeolithic, wood and bone tools were used to remove much finer, smaller flakes (by pressure flaking, rather than striking the flint) and produced beautifully worked flint hand axes with sharp, straight edges.

 

By the close of the Palaeolithic, and into the early Mesolithic (in Britain, almost 12,000 years ago), hand axes were finally given wooden handles, and the                                           was developed.

Hand Axe

Shafted Axe

Did  You Know...

"Timeless Galleries' prehistoric axes and arrowheads are typically found ‘eyes only’ by metal-detecting enthusiasts and field walkers, although many of our artefacts are sourced from private collections and specialist dealers. "

The earliest (Mesolithic) shafted axes were termed ‘non-shaft-hole axes’, and as the name suggests, the axe heads (typically made of flint, greenstone or slate), were affixed to a split-ended wooden shaft using strips of animal sinew or tree bark.

The cutting edge on non-shaft-hole axes was formed along the broadest end of the tool, while the narrower, blunt ends (or ‘butt end’) often show signs of being used as hammers. 

 

Later axes of this type developed in the Neolithic (after 4000 BCE) were often knapped, ground and smoothly polished, although retained the same basic shape, as in the example here.

Neolithic Polished Chert Axehead, Suffolk, 8,300-4,500 BCE

The final development of stone axes, spanning from the late Neolithic and into the Bronze Age around 3500 years ago, saw the introduction of the ‘shaft-hole’ axe heads.

 

Rarely made from flint, shaft-hole axes were typically made from dense, hard-wearing rock such as diorite or fine-grained granite. Often termed ‘battle axes’, they were heavy and unwieldy, and almost certainly made for ceremonial purposes or as high-status objects.

Here is an example of a four thousand year old Swedish-Norwegian stone battle axe, or ‘boat axe’ (the shaft hole is clearly visible).

Neolithic Scandinavian Boat Axe, c. 1800 BCE

Arrow Heads

 

Of the prehistoric stone arrowheads collected by Timeless, the majority are made of flint, chert or obsidian, and are typically Neolithic in age, dating back around 12,000 years  — although stone projectile points have been manufactured for well over 200,000 years.

We select only the finest examples of arrowhead from many different prehistoric cultures around the world, and sourced from almost every continent.

 

 

Among the earliest British artefacts in our collection are the many diverse types of

leaf-shaped arrowhead.

 

The arrowheads are typically coarsely knapped, although beautiful, finely worked examples are occasionally offered by Timeless (and these were almost certainly ceremonial, as they were too delicate to be used to hunt). 

Finely knapped ogival shaped arrowhead. Late Neolithic period.

These early arrowheads usually take the form of a willow leaf - without notches, barbs or tangs, and were probably affixed to the split end of an arrow shaft using resin and sinew. Other leaf-shaped arrowheads often to be found in our galleries may take the form of kites, diamonds, or ‘ogival’ shaped arrowheads as pictured above.

Transverse Arrowheads

These later arrowheads were made with long, straight cutting edges rather than penetrative points, and with the narrowest end of the arrowhead hafted to the arrow 

 

Timeless rarely acquires this type of arrowhead, although we may occasionally have British oblique transverse arrowheads in stock; triangular shaped with a single cutting edge.

The instantly recognisable BARBED AND TANGED flint arrowhead represent a much later development in lithic technology, being predominantly produced in the late Neolithic and early British Bronze Age (2500 - 1500 BCE).

 

The arrowhead shown here is typical of the Bronze Age 'Beaker Culture'. This type of arrowhead appeared very suddenly (along with Beaker burial traditions) and the introduction of metal working to the British Isles.

 

 

Timeless will occasionally source beautiful examples of this type of arrowhead from North America or the Sahara, although the majority of our Barbed and Tanged arrowheads are European found.

Barbed and Tanged Flint Arrowhead

Bronze Age, c. 2000 BCE

 

Timeless Galleries are indebted to the following authors for much of the information on this blog:

 

Logan Thompson (Ancient Weapons in Britain), R. Ewart Oakshott (The Archaeology of Weapons), Dan Howard (Bronze Age Military Equipment), P. R. S Moorey (Ancient Bronzes from Luristan)

Francois Bordes (The Old Stone Age), Charles Ede (Collecting Antiquities),  Richard Hattatt (Brooches from Antiquity; Iron Age and Roman Brooches), Miranda J. Green (Celtic World)

Oliver Jessop (A New Artefact Typology for the Study of Medieval Arrowheads), Hazel Martingell (The Illustration of Lithic Artefacts)

 

 

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