Culture

Polished Stone Axes Reveal More of the Marvels at the Ness of Brodgar

The  dig at the Ness of Brodgar in the Heart of Neolithic Orkney is continuing to astound archaeologists.

So far over 30,000 pieces of pottery, large assemblages of bones and stone tools – including over 30 unique stone axes have all been uncovered in the structures.

Archaeologists from the University of the Highlands and Islands Archaeology Institute and the Ness of Brodgar Trust unearthed two polished stone axes in quick succession recently.

The first axe is an expertly worked and polished object and is the largest so far discovered on site. It had been heavily used and damaged at the cutting edge.

Ness of Brodgar stone axe

Nick Card, Site Director, said:

“It is nice to find pristine examples of stone axes, but the damage on this one tells us a little bit more about the history of this particular axe.

“The fact that the cutting edge had been heavily damaged suggests that it was a working tool rather than a ceremonial object.

“We know that the buildings in the complex were roofed by stone slabs so this axe was perhaps used to cut and fashion the timber joists that held up the heavy roof.”

The second axe was discovered by  student, Therese McCormick, from Australia who is a  volunteer at the Ness of Brodgar. The gneiss stone the axe is made from has been expertly worked and polished.

Nick Card said:

“This axe again tells us a little more about the life of the Neolithic people who built this place. There is, in common with the large axe discovered earlier, a great deal of edge damage suggesting that this axe was used extensively as a working tool, but interestingly one of the edges has been re-worked to create a new edge and also both sides are covered in peck marks suggesting that it was also re-used perhaps as a mini anvil.

This axe, in common with many of the axes found on site, was also placed in a special position within one of the structures opposite the entrance that was aligned east-west to catch the equinox sunrise and in line with Maeshowe.

“These polished stone axes unearthed at the Ness of Brodgar were clearly multifunctional tools that were not only ‘tools of the trade’ but were also perhaps symbols of power.”

Ness of Brodgar 2nd axe in hand

Related story: We Went To The Ness!


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