During the 5th and 4th millennia BC, the Neolithic extraction of stone around Mont Viso and in the Mont Beigua massif in the north Italian Alps resulted in the production of large polished axeheads in ecologite, omphacitite, jadeitite and amphibolite - raw materials which were not only rare but which also have remarkable mechanical and aesthetic properties. These axeheads circulated around western Europe over great distances and in particular, between the Alps, the Atlantic and the North Sea. Among these Alpine jades, research suggests a tendency for different raw materials to be represented in different geographic areas. Axeheads and other items made from dark-coloured rocks from the family of eclogites and omphacitites tend to predominate in the Paris Basin, in Germany and in Great Britain and Ireland. This paper documents the manufacture, circulation and deposition of different types of Alpine axeheads over time. More specifically, it discusses observed trends in relation to variability in the supply of raw materials and finished objects, the nature of regional traditions and long-distance transfer, and ultimately, the changing significance of axeheads as socially valorized artefacts.
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