Axeheads made of jadeitite and of other Alpine rocks (notably omphacitites and fine-grained eclogites) provide a classic example of an artefact type that acquired a symbolic meaning over and above its original functional meaning as a tool for felling trees and working wood. Axes were a necessary tool for farming communities and many hundreds of thousands were produced. But clearly certain axes (or axeheads) acquired an enhanced social value as iconic objects, with the axeheads' raw material coming from special locations - here, high in the North Italian Alps - and being imbued with divine power. The ways in which the numinous power of these special axeheads was constituted are explored: rarity, toughness, colour, shape, surface finish, treatment and deposition. The extraordinarily wide distribution of the axeheads from their source areas, and the complex life histories of certain examples, are investigated. This presentation uses the results of Prof. Pierre Petrequin's Projet JADE and JADE2 to explore the creative reinterpretation of the humble axehead.
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