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Group of arsenical copper tools


Length: 19.900 cm (axe-blade (max.))
Length: 19.900 cm (axe-blade (max.))

GR 1969.12-31.1-8

Room 11: Cycladic Islands

    Group of arsenical copper tools

    Early Bronze Age, about 2700-2200 BC
    From the island of Naxos, the Cyclades, Aegean Sea

    Heavy-duty carpenters' tools

    This group of tools would have been suitable for different stages of wood-working: the shaft-hole axes were perhaps used for basic chopping and trimming, and the flat axes and chisels for finer work. The flat axes and chisels might also have been used as wedges to split wood into planks.

    The tools were made early in the history of metallurgy, when metal tools were becoming widely available in the Cyclades for the first time. They are made from arsenical copper; the ore came from the island of Kythnos. The tools were found on Naxos, in a hoard that also included four similar pieces now in the National Museum, Copenhagen.

    It is not clear whether the hoard was a dedication, the stock of a trader, or the working tools of a craftsman. It seems possible that both traders and carpenters might have been itinerant, taking tools with them. These tools could have been hidden by their owner in a time of difficulty, and never recovered, or they could have been dedicated at a shrine or sanctuary. Whichever is the case, they must have been rare and valuable, representing a good deal of portable wealth.

    J.L. Fitton, Cycladic art, 2nd ed. (London, The British Museum Press, 1999)

    J.L. Fitton, '"Esse quam videri": A reconsideration of the Kythnos hoard of early Cycladic tools', American Journal of Archaeol-1, 93 (1989), pp. 31-39


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