Bronze ceremonial axe head inlaid with silver


British Museum

British Museum
London, United Kingdom

This bronze axe head is in the form of three animals, a boar, a tiger and a goat, all intertwined. The boar's back forms the blade, which is blunt. The tiger, beautifully striped with silver inlay, seizes the goat. The complex decoration suggests that it was probably ceremonial, and the rivet holes indicate that it was firmly fixed onto a curved wooden handle, which has not survived. It was obtained in the North-West Provinces of India (now Pakistan) but may originally have come from eastern Iran or Bactria. Related in form to axe heads from Khinaman, near Kerman in Iran, it perhaps dates from around 2000 BC. Analysis has shown that the alloy is copper with approximately 10% tin and between 1% and 3% arsenic. At the end of the third millennium there was a flourishing civilization in South-East Iran with connections with south Bactria (northern Afghanistan) and southern Turkmenistan.


  • Title: Bronze ceremonial axe head inlaid with silver
  • Date Created: -2500/-2000
  • Physical Dimensions: Length: 17.80cm; Weight: 675.50g
  • External Link: British Museum collection online
  • Technique: cast; inlaid
  • Subject: mammal
  • Registration number: 1913,0314.1
  • Production place: Made in Iran, East
  • Place: Found/Acquired Pakistan
  • Period/culture: Bronze Age
  • Material: bronze; silver
  • Copyright: Photo: © Trustees of the British Museum
  • Acquisition: Donated through Art Fund. Donated by Oppenheimer, Henry

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