Miniature Bronze Age flanged axe

IMG_0012IMG_0010This is a miniature Bronze Age flanged axe found more than 100 yrs ago in S-Germany (5,5x 1,2x 03 cm).  The flanges are fully developed on one side only and are 1mm wide and barely 1mm high. The other side shows selective basal flanging and ornaments of grouped strokes. The original surface of the object survives in good condition with an even dark green patina. Where there are tiny patches of exposed surfaces, these are fractionally lighter green. The original context of the artifact remains unknown.

In central Europe such miniature objects are very rare.  There are some arguments from Bronze Age findings from the UK and Greek and Crete, which put miniature axes into a ritual context.  Miniature axes were part of Iron Age ‘votive’ miniatures hordes, which often took the form of martial equipment such as shields and spears. Whilst deposition of full-sized weaponry appears to have been primarily an Early to Middle Iron Age phenomenon, miniatures are known exclusively from Late Iron Age contexts. Diminutive axes are often associated with Roman votive offerings.

Miniatures intrigue us. In his book on prehistoric Neolithic figurines, Bailey has argued that by manipulating scale we affect people’s perceptions, giving them “a sense of being drawn into another world”. Due to the small size of the objects, this is likely to involve a close, tactile encounter; holding these three-dimensional miniatures is the only way to experience them fully, encouraging the viewer to actively engage with the object, drawing inferences and extrapolating detail.

Although the effect of abstracting and compressing the world into a reduced scale can be unsettling, it also creates a sense of control over the object-made-miniature, changing the balance of power in the person-object interaction. Bailey writes that “miniatures have important effects on the person seeing or handling an object… Miniaturism empowers the spectator. It allows physical control over a homologue of a thing…. Literally, it makes the world manageable…. Furthermore, miniaturism comforts the spectator. By providing … physical control over a thing, miniaturism suggests security”.

Suggested Reading:

Douglass W. Bailey: Prehistoric Figurines: Representation and Corporeality in the Neolithic. Routledge;  2005

Bronze Age and the transformation of Neolithic societies in Europe

Copper axe from Kassel-Kirchditmold

Early Bronze Age decorated Flat Axe: An artifact of Prestige and Power?

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