Alpine rock axehead found at Harras, Thuringia, from the Michelsberg Culture
(c. 4300-2800 BCE)
[Credit: Juraj Liptak, State Office for Heritage Management and Archaeology
Axeheads made out of Alpine rocks had strong social and economic symbolic meaning in the Neolithic, given their production and use value. Their resistance to friction and breakage, which permitted intense polishing and a re-elaboration of the rocks, gave these artefacts an elevated exchange value, key to the formation of long-distance exchange networks among communities of Western Europe. Communities who had already begun to set the value of exchange of a product according to the time and effort invested in producing them.
This is what a study led by a research group at the Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona (UAB) indicates in regards to the mechanical and physical parameters characterising the production, circulation and use of a series of rock types used in the manufacturing of sharp-edged polished artefacts in Europe during the Neolithic (5600-2200 BCE).
The objective of the study was to answer a long debated topic: the criteria by which Alpine rocks formed part of an unprecedented pan-European phenomenon made up of long-distance exchange networks, while others were only used locally. Was the choice based on economic, functional or perhaps subjective criteria? Stone axeheads were crucial to the survival and economic reproduction of societies in the Neolithic. Some of the rocks used travelled over 1000 kilometres from their Alpine regions to northern Europe, Andalusia in southern Spain and the Balkans.
Read the rest of this article...