Copper axe


British Museum

British Museum

This axe was found in one of the Royal Graves of Ur where no tomb chamber survived. Scattered on the floor of the pit were two copper axes and a gold one decorated in a similar fashion. Such weapons have often been associated with the soldiers 'guarding' the slope leading to the bottom of the pit. Whether this axe belonged to such a guardian is unknown, because of the poor state of the grave's preservation. Axes of this shape are also found in later graves. It seems to have been the regular weapon used by infantry. Examples are shown being carried by soldiers on the Standard of Ur. It is likely that the axe came to replace the mace as the main fighting weapon, perhaps as a result of the more widespread availability of copper from the fourth millennium BC. This style of axe, however, disappears before the time of the Agade (Akkadian) Empire (around 2300-2000 BC). This axe was made of wood and, although this had perished, it had been coated with a kind of gesso which was painted red and bound with gold. The gesso survived and the handle could be reconstructed.

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  • Title: Copper axe
  • Date Created: -2600/-2500
  • Physical Dimensions: Length: 47.00cm; Length: 14.50cm (handle); Width: 3.00in (axe-head)
  • External Link: British Museum collection online
  • Registration number: 1928,1009.179
  • Place: Excavated/Findspot Royal Cemetery
  • Period/culture: Early Dynastic III
  • Material: gold; copper; plaster
  • Copyright: Photo: © Trustees of the British Museum
  • Acquisition: Excavated by Woolley, Charles Leonard. Division of Finds Department of Antiquities of Iraq