PAUL D STEWART / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY PAUL D STEWART / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY
Four simple flat axes, or celts, made of copper. Most originate from Central and Eastern Europe from 4500BC to 3000BC and show a simple casting design that could use a flat or basic two piece mold. This is probably the earliest use of metals to overlap and eventually replace the stone axes of the neolithic and partly imitates the form of earlier axes. The flared edge is often hammered to a sharp edge to harden it, and requires repeated sharpening because copper dulls quickly. The addition of tin would eventually produce a harder alloy and herald the start of the bronze age. Otzi the ice man from approx 3200 BC carried an axe very similar to that on the far left. The handle was preserved showing it was carried in a shafting fork of yew wood held with birch pitch. Small axes may reflect the value of the metal as a commodity rather than neccesarily being a functional choice.
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