The Boat Axe Culture


A wonderful Boat Axe from Mecklenburg found in the 1890ies. The so called boat axe culture (about 2000 BC), an outlier of the European Battle-Ax ( Corded Ware) cultures is named after its boat-shaped battle axes made of stone.
Thousands of these axes have been found, as stray findings and in single graves, mainly in Southern Scandinavia and Northern Germany. Isolated finds are known from Southern Germany and Northern France. One of the finest specimens I know can bee seen in the Amiens Museum. Boat Axes are interpreted as non-utilitarian prestige goods.

The controversies about the European Battle-Ax culture have been discussed during later posts:

Battle Axes and the Corded Ware-culture

Corded Ware Axe from S-Germany

Battle Axe from the Corded Ware Culture of Middle Europe and the genetic Background of Neolithic cultural Change

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3 Responses to The Boat Axe Culture

  1. Richard Savary says:

    I think these axes must be among the best “art” of Neolithic northern Europe, and they must be considered art as well as (though less elaborately than), say, the paintings and sculptures of the Renaissance, for similar reasons. Both serve similar spiritual as well as political and social ends. Both are associated with death, transcendence, and maybe even power, as both express those roles through arresting beauty. Certainly these boat/battle/Single Grave axes are often sensuously beautiful. I think there can be little question that they are some kind of art.

    I’m wondering, and maybe somebody knows about this. I have 8 of these “battle axes,” mostly simple versions, and a couple of better ones (all nice forms). These certainly seem diverse enough, and yet also have many similarities. I should say, there seem to be a number of styles of these axes, perhaps they could be ordered, stylistically, some way? Mine all came from the European coast north of Poland, yet I see other styles, like this axe from Germany, which are different from mine.

    I’m wondering if the styles vary by region, with some types common here, and others there, etc., or were all the styles found everywhere, the variations stemming perhaps from the status of the man with whom it was buried? Were these axes produced locally, or were there centers of production? Did some regions produce higher quality axes than others? Perhaps designs were highly improvisational and vary a lot within single regions? Were there style trends? We are looking at at least a millennium of time.

    I’m a little hampered in learning more about these because most of the papers seem to be in languages I don’t speak. If anybody has more info about these boat axes, I’m interested.

  2. Sagar Prashant Bhatt says:

    I am interested in artifacts and tools, especially because of their significant history. Sometimes, they look strange, like the Boat Axe displayed, but all of them were useful in the past.

  3. torben hedvall says:

    In Denmark, there is a lot of research about battle axes. archaeologist P.V. Glob wrote already in 1945 thesis on “The Danish single grave culture” (Gyldendalske Bookhandel) and put the battle axes up in chronological order. Later there is a lot of research into the subject, as the National Museum in Copenhagen can help you.

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