Typical Basque woodman's axe. It was made from a sheet of iron bent into a U, into which a steel plate has been inserted with a curved blade. It has been worn down by use. The top of the head is straight and the lower is somewhat tapering. The hole houses the wooden handle, which is reinforced in the central area.
From at least the Middle Ages, there were smithies in the Basque Country specialising in the manufacture of axes (aizkora). There are various types, depending on their origin (e.g. the Navarran and Biscayan axes) and the use to which they were put; for example, ilargi aizkora for felling trees for charcoal, and a flat-faced axe used for carpentry. Some of these workshops remained open until the end of the twentieth century in Ezkio, Itsasondo, Urnieta, Leitza, etc.
The axe is a frequent feature in Basque mythology. Axe-making required welding to join the two pieces of metal, and it was widely believed throughout the Pyrenees that this was a technique known only to the basajaunes (mythical lords of the wood). The belief that axes are lightning stones, however, is found in many regions of the world from ancient times. Because it was believed that lightning never struck the same place twice, prehistoric axes have been found in shepherd's huts and until the twentieth century it was common to place axes outside houses with the blade facing upwards during thunder storms.
This piece is from the Provincial Government of Gipuzkoa’s I. Atxukarro collection.
Leizaola, Fermín de. Burdina: Burdigintza eta forjaketa tradizionala : [Gipuzkoako Foru Aldundiaren Kultur Departamentuak Antolatutako Erakusketa] = Hierro : Ferrería y Forja Tradicional : [exposición...]. [San Sebastián]: Diputación Foral de Guipúzcoa, Departamento de Cultura, Educación, Deportes y Turismo, 1989. 48-49.
Garmendia Larrañaga, Juan. Aizkora = El hacha o aizkora. In: Euskal esku-langintza = Artesanía vasca. Donostia = San Sebastián : Auñamendi, 1970. III, 122-141.
Inventory number: GFA-002210-001