Axes from the Stone, Bronze and Iron Ages

Stone Age, found at Scotby Comb, Cumbria, England
Bronze Age, found at Seamer Carr, North Yorkshire, England
Iron Age, found at Sandy, Bedfordshire, England

During the Enlightenment, many antiquaries published descriptions of ancient monuments, tools, weapons and pottery. They began to construct historical sequences by comibining these discoveries with evidence from historical sources.

By the eighteenth century, most people knew that stone tools were not fossils and had concluded that their use preceded the use of copper and bronze implements. By comparing different burial sites, the French antiquary Mahudel noted that bronze items were often found in graves where the urns were most decayed, whereas more recent pots tended to be found with iron. This led him to propose the chronological sequence stone-bronze-iron.

Mahudel's ideas were taken up and developed by British antiquaries such as the Cornish clergyman William Borlase (1696-1772) and became widely accepted by the end of the eighteenth century. This sequence was later called the 'Three Age' system of classification by Danish archaeologists. It still underpins our thinking today.

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More information

Bibliography

K. Sloan (ed.), Enlightenment. Discovering the (London, The British Museum Press, 2003)

Dimensions

Height: 19.400 cm (Scotby Comb hand-axe)
Width: 7.100 cm
Height: 19.400 cm (Scotby Comb hand-axe)
Width: 7.100 cm
Height: 19.400 cm (Scotby Comb hand-axe)
Width: 7.100 cm

Museum number

P&EE unreg. (Sturge Collection);P&EE WG 1987;P&EE 1915,12-8.337

BCB13884;BCB12616

Location

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