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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Object details

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


P&EE 1901 2-6 1

Room 51: Europe 10,000-800 BC


    Gift of F. Bennett Goldney


    See this object in our Collection database online

    Further reading

    R. Bradley, The Prehistory of Britain and Ireland (Cambridge, 2007)

    R. Bradley, and M. Edmonds, Interpreting the Axe trade: Production and Exchange in Neolithic Britain (Cambridge, 1993)

    M. Edmonds, Stone tools and society: Working stone in Neolithic and Bronze Age Britain (London, 1995)

    P. Petrequin et al., The Neolithic quarries of Mont Viso (Piedmont, Italy). Initial radiocarbon dates, European Journal of Archaeology, 9 (1) (2006): 7-30,

    A. Sheridan, Green Treasures from Magic Mountains. British Archaeology 96 (2007), 22-7.

    A. Whittle, Europe in the Neolithic: The Creation of New Worlds (Cambridge, 1996)