Jade axe

Canterbury, Kent, England, Neolithic, about 4,000-2,000 BC

This remarkable axe has been polished all over and would have required many hours of careful labour to make.

It is in pristine condition, and it is unlikely that it was ever intended for practical use. Its function was probably symbolic.

There are more than a hundred axes from Britain and Ireland made from stone like this, which was quarried in northern Italy. They are found throughout Europe, being passed between men of power and status.

By the time that this axe reached England it was already very old. It was probably a rare and precious item, charged with meaning.

Jadeite axes were entering Britain from the beginning of the Neolithic period, around 4,000 BC. One of the rare datable examples was placed as an offering beside a 6,000 year old wooden trackway in Somerset.


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Dimensions

Height: 21.25 cm
Width: 8.12 cm
Depth: 1.96 cm

 

Museum number

P&EE 1901 2-6 1

BCB66024

 

Gift of F. Bennett Goldney

Location

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Book

A History of the World in 100 objects

 
By Neil MacGregor

Accompanies the BBC Radio 4 series



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