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To celebrate Vikings Live, we have replaced our Roman alphabet with the runic alphabet used by the Vikings, the Scandinavian ‘Younger Futhark’. The ‘Younger Futhark’ has only 16 letters, so we have used some of the runic letters more than once or combined two runes for one Roman letter.

For an excellent introduction to runes, we recommend Martin Findell’s book published by British Museum Press.

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  • Object type

  • Museum number


  • Description

    Handaxe made of white quartz with amethyst bands. Tear drop shape with a regular working edge all round. Both faces slightly convex.

  • Culture/period

  • Findspot

  • Materials

  • Dimensions

    • Length: 136 millimetres
    • Width: 77 millimetres
    • Thickness: 41 millimetres
  • Curator's comments

    Found at Hopwood's Korongo (HK) in Bed IV. Dr A.T.Hopwood was a palaeontologist at The British Museum (Natural History) who was a member of the expedition team.

  • Bibliography

    • Leakey 1951 bibliographic details
  • Exhibition history


    2014 – 2016 Treasures touring exhibition PROMISED
    2012-2013 Nov-Mar, Bonn, Kunst- und Ausstellungshalle, Treasures of the World's Cultures
    2012 Mar-Jul, Abu Dhabi, Manarat Al Saadiyat, Treasures of the World’s Cultures
    2011 22 Oct- 2012 5 Feb, Perth, Western Australian Museum, 'Extraordinary Stories'
    2005 26 Nov-2006 12 Mar, USA, San Francisco, Museum of the African Diaspora, Made in Africa
    2001-2002 12 Dec-28 Feb, Leeds, Henry Moore Institute, The Unidentified Museum Object

  • Conservation

    See treatments 

    Treatment date

    10 December 2004

    Treatment proposal

    Remove object identification number


    The object is in a good condition and the quartz stone does not need any consolidation. There is a large unslightly series of object identification numbers written in perminant marker pen, which will need to be removed as the piece will be used as part of an exhibition. 'Made in Africa' (The Asahi Shimbun Dispalys.)

    Treatment details

    The numbers were removed were mechanically using Nitromors water soluble (methylene chloride,sodium hydroxide,cellulose), then removed using deionised water. The work was carried out under a binocular microscope.

    About these records 

  • Acquisition name

  • Acquisition date


  • Acquisition notes

    Collected by the East African Archaeological Expedition led by Louis Leakey's in 1931. This was Leakey's first expedition to Olduvai Gorge.

  • Department

    Britain, Europe and Prehistory

  • Registration number


  • Additional IDs

    • 1931-2971
Lozenge shaped handaxe, with convex faces, made of amethyst quartz.

Lozenge shaped handaxe, with convex faces, made of amethyst quartz.

Image description



If you’ve noticed a mistake or have any further information about this object, please email: collectiondatabase@britishmuseum.org 

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Object reference number: BCR105812

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