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Wooden Handle Found Intact on 5,500-Year-Old Stone Ax

Image: A Stone Age ax, with its wooden handle well-preserved, is embedded in clay on the Danish island of Lolland
A Stone Age ax, with its wooden handle well-preserved, is embedded in clay on the Danish island of Lolland. Museum Lolland-Fallster

An archaeological survey of sites for an undersea tunnel project in southern Denmark has turned up a stunning find: a 5,500-year-old stone ax with the wooden handle still intact. The ax was found embedded in a layer of clay that preserved the wood over the millennia, said archeologists with the Museum Lolland-Falster. Søren Anker Sørensen, an archaeologist at the museum, said in a press release that the excavation also uncovered a paddle, two bows and 14 ax shafts, jammed into the ground as part of a ritual offering at what was the sea’s edge during the Stone Age. “When we suddenly realized that we had actually found most of a complete hafted ax, stuck 30 cm (11.8 inches) down into the seabed, we knew that this was a very special find," he said.

The museum said the discovery showed the importance of the coast for ritual offerings during the Stone Age. Surveys associated with the tunnel project also turned up the first Stone Age footprints ever found in Denmark. The site where the ax was found is east of Rodbyhavn, a ferry port on the southern coast of Lolland, the southernmost of Denmark’s large islands. The new tunnel for trains and automobiles would provide quicker access from Germany to Lolland and to other parts of Denmark and Sweden.

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— Gil Aegerter