Axes from the Stone, Bronze and Iron Ages

British Museum

British Museum

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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  • Title: Axes from the Stone, Bronze and Iron Ages
  • Physical Dimensions: Length: 129.00mm; Length: 29.00mm (mouth); Width: 25.00mm (mouth); Width: 70.00mm (cutting edge); Width: 39.00mm (butt); Thickness: 44.00mm; Weight: 410.00g
  • External Link: British Museum collection online
  • Technique: cast; hammered
  • Registration number: WG.1987
  • Place: Found/Acquired Seamer Carr
  • Period/culture: Bronze Age
  • Material: copper alloy
  • Copyright: Photo: © Trustees of the British Museum
  • Acquisition: Donated by Morgan, John Pierpont. Collected by Greenwell, William


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