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Das Beil

The Axe

The most important item of the Iceman’s equipment is his copper-bladed axe.

The carefully smoothed yew haft is around 60 cm long. At the top of the haft there is a forked shaft into which the blade was fixed with birch tar and tightly bound with thin leather straps to keep it in place.The 9.5 cm blade is trapezoidal in shape and made of almost pure copper. The narrow end was produced by cold-hammering after the blade was cast.

It allowed the blade, which shows clear signs of use, to be fixed more securely in the haft.

Archaeological experiments have shown that the copper axe was an ideal tool for felling trees and could fell a yew tree in 35 minutes without sharpening.

The axe was therefore not just a symbol of rank. In the period around 3000 years BC, copper axes were a status symbol and must have been cherished as weapons. Perhaps the Iceman was therefore a tribal leader or warrior.