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Do Not Judge the Axe Maker Until You Know the Rock Type

by David A. Easterla, Ph.D., Maryville, Missouri

Originally Published in the Central States Archaeological Journal, Vol.56, No.4, pg.200

Originally Published in the Central States Archaeological Journal, Vol.57, No.2, pg.82

Recently the author obtained an axe that ap­peared to be very crudely made. However, upon closer examination, the situation was the opposite. This fascinating % groove axe is complete and un­damaged, yet it has the roughest surface that this writer has ever seen in handling thousands of axes (see photos). The axe has almost perfect morphol­ogy and symmetry, yet it would undoubtedly be a reject to most top grade, hard-core collectors.

The rock type of the axe is a metamorphic gran­ite gneiss, which is very rare for axe making, and certainly new to this writer. As observed in the photos below, the blackish mineral is hornblende (6 hardness) and is very rough and sharp and protrudes from the axe surface considerably. The light colored minerals are feldspars (5 ‘/2 hardness) which are slightly softer and do not protrude from the axe surface.

This axe (% groove) is Archaic and thou­sands of years old. Obviously, over such a long period of time, the differential chemical make­up and hardness of the minerals composing the rock of this axe have become quite evident through the weathering process involving oxida­tion, acidification, leaching, dissolving, etc. Al­though unknown, the substrate material in which this axe was buried certainly involved elements of serious weathering consequences. Although unknown and unproven, based upon the symme­try, color, and morphology of the axe, this author strongly suspects that when first made, this axe was not only a beautifully colored black and white (or pink) lined (layered) axe but also possessed a very smooth and polished surface that the maker took considerable pride. Thus, this axe has become one of the writer’s favorite, since it not only hints of the original maker’s skills, but also shows the beauty of “Mother Nature’s” weathering and aging over thousands of years!

The axe has beautiful patina and is six inches long. It was found by James Rogers on 7 June 2009 on a sloping edge of Brushy Creek, approximately three miles south of Cameron, Clinton County, Missouri.


Side view and bottom edge view of a rare metamorphic granit gneiss.  A groove axe.”Used by Permission of the Author”
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