Battle axes

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From Whitehall, Stronsay, Orkney; Sandwick, Orkney; Wick Harbour, Caithness

Postcard of Battle axes.
© National Museums Scotland

Battle axes

These three stone battle axes were found at Whitehall on Stronsay in Orkney, at Sandwick in Orkney and in Wick harbour in Caithness. They illustrate the stages in making a battle axe. All date from between 2000 and 1700 BC.

The distinctively shaped axeheads are known as bow-tie profile battle axes. They are in various degrees of workmanship. The top left is unfinished, without a central hole, while the top right is only partly perforated. The bottom one is finished.

Battle axes were adapted from Continental Europe around the time when metallurgy was introduced to Scotland. They were originally mounted on handles. Although they could have functioned as weapons, their main purpose was to be symbols of power.

Record details

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Online ID: 000-100-033-021-C
Image Rights Holder: National Museums Scotland
Project: 0098: National Museums Scotland
Project description | View all records in project
Ref: National Museums Scotland  X.AH 175
Date: Between 2000 and 1700 BC
Material: Greenstone; deep incurving sides; partly perforated; polished
Sandstone with quartz veins; unfinished; imperfect
Stone; deep indentations on top and bottom edges
Dimensions: 4.25" x 3.00"
4.38" x 2.81" x 2.06"
5.63" x 3.75" x 2.56"
What: Axe, battle
Axe, battle
Axe, battle
Where: Scotland, Caithness, Wick Harbour
Scotland, Orkney, Sandwick
Scotland, Orkney, Stronsay, Whitehall
Description: Unperforated bow-tie profile battle-axe with blades ground, from Whitehall, Stronsay, Orkney
Bow-tie profile battle-axe with incipient perforations, from Sandwick, Orkney
Finished bow-tie profile battle-axe, from Wick Harbour, Caithness
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