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ABORIGINAL GROUND-EDGE AXES

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					                                                                                                  Site Identification
      ABORIGINAL                                                                                  Mini Poster 8


      GROUND-EDGE AXES
                                                                                                  Characteristics
                                                                                                  • Ground-edge axes come
                                                                                                    in different shapes, but they
                                                                                                    are usually either round or
                                                                                                    oval. They are sometimes
                                                                                                    rounded and narrow at one
                                                                                                    end, and slightly broader
                                                                                                    and straighter at the
                                                                                                    cutting edge.
                                                                                                  • Most are 50–200 millimetres
                                                                                                    long, 40–100 millimetres
                                                                                                    wide and 20–60 millimetres
                                                                                                    thick.
                                                                                                  • Typically they are ‘lens
                                                                                                    shaped’ when viewed from
                                                                                                    the side.
                                                                                                  • They were made from hard
                                                                                                    types of stone, particularly
                                                                                                    basalt or greenstone, and
                                                                                                    worn river pebbles.
                                                                                                  • They may have one or
Greenstone Axe blank (left) and Ground-edge Axe (right)
                                                                                                    more ground cutting edges,
                                                                                                    and they may be polished
                                                                                                    smooth all over.
What are Aboriginal                                       How Did Aboriginal People
                                                                                                    The ground surfaces are
Ground-edge Axes?                                         Make Ground-edge Axes?
                                                                                                    usually highly polished.
Ground-edge axes are stone                                Aboriginal people made ‘axe blanks’
                                                                                                  • They may have a groove
chopping tools with cutting edges                         by striking large flakes of stone from
                                                                                                    pecked around their ‘waist’
that were formed by grinding.                             rocky outcrops (see Mini Poster 7),
                                                                                                    so it is easier to attach
They were often designed to have                          then roughly shaping them. They
                                                                                                    a handle.
a handle.                                                 carried axe blanks across great
                                                          distances for trading.                  • Complete axes are rare.
Aboriginal ground-edge axes are
                                                                                                    It is more common to find
usually rounded or oval in shape,                         The axes were often finished away
                                                                                                    smaller, broken, polished
but may be slightly elongated with a                      from the quarry. The tool maker
                                                                                                    fragments.
straighter, sharpened end.                                would complete an axe by grinding
                                                          to make a sharp cutting edge.
Where are They Found?                                     This edge, while not as sharp as
Ground-edge axes can be found                             a chipped stone tool, was much
almost anywhere where Aboriginal                          more durable. When the edge was
people camped or lived in Victoria.                       broken or chipped, the axe could be
They may be found near axe-grinding                       sharpened again and again.
grooves, axe quarries or burial sites.                    Grinding was usually done on
                                                          sandstone outcrops, often leaving
                                                          deep grooves. Sometimes the
                                                          whole axe was ground to a smooth
                                                          glossy finish.
                                                                                                     Ground-edge Axes with wooden hafts
Aboriginal people often used natural   Why are Ground-edge                       Are Aboriginal Ground-edge
resin and plant fibre or kangaroo       Axes Important?                           Axes Protected?
sinew to attach the axe to a short     Aboriginal ground-stone axes are an       The law protects all Aboriginal
wooden handle.                         important link for Aboriginal people      cultural places and artefacts in
                                       today with their culture and their        Victoria. It is illegal to disturb
How Did Aboriginal People
                                       past. We know of the custodians           or destroy an Aboriginal place.
Use Ground-edge Axes?
                                       of some quarries where stone axes         Ground-edge axes and other
Aboriginal people used axes to         were made, and their descendants          artefacts should not be removed
cut down small trees, chop wood,       are still alive today.                    from sites.
remove tree bark for canoes and
shelters, butcher larger animals       The axes are a valuable source of         It is also illegal to buy or sell artefacts
and undertake many other tasks.        information about the past way of life    without a permit. Information about
They also used axes as weapons,        of Aboriginal people.                     permits may be obtained from
ceremonial objects and valuable                                                  Aboriginal Affairs Victoria.
                                       Are Aboriginal Ground-edge
trade items.                           Axes under Threat?                        What to Do If You Find a
Many axes come from a large            Ground-edge axes are strong and           Ground-edge Axe?
greenstone quarry at Mount William,    durable. Unfortunately, because they      Do not disturb or remove it.
near Lancefield. Axes from this         are obviously Aboriginal artefacts,       Check whether the object has
quarry have been found up to 800       many have been taken by artefact          the typical characteristics of an
kilometres from Mount William, but     collectors and the general public.        Aboriginal ground-edge axe. If it
not in the eastern half of Victoria.   We know little about these collected      does, record its location and write
The Gunai/Kurnai people in the         axes: information about their age,        a brief description of its condition.
east had their own quarries and        original location and links with other    Note whether it is under threat of
system of trade. Studies of the        artefacts has been lost forever.          disturbance.
distribution of Mount William axes
have demonstrated that this trade      Natural processes such as wind            Please help to preserve
boundary existed for a long time,      and water erosion may disturb axes,       Aboriginal cultural sites by
possibly several thousand years.       but human interference such as            reporting their presence to
                                       ploughing and development (and            Aboriginal Affairs Victoria.
What Natural Rocks Look                particularly souvenir collecting) poses   Contact:
Similar to Ground-edge Axes?           the greatest threat to these artefacts.
                                                                                 The Heritage Registrar
Ground-edge axes are easy to           Aboriginal Affairs Victoria records the   Aboriginal Affairs Victoria
distinguish from natural rocks.        location, dimensions and condition        PO Box 2392
Smooth, hard, river pebbles may        of Aboriginal ground-edge axes. The       Melbourne VIC 3001
look like the axes, but they do not    aim is to have a permanent written
have the sharp edges.                  and photographic record of this           Telephone: 1800 762 003
                                       important part of the heritage of         Website: www.dpcd.vic.gov.au/aav
                                       all Australians.




                                                                                 June 2008
                                                                                 Copyright State Government of Victoria 2008.
                                                                                 Authorised by the Victoria Government, Melbourne
                                                                                 ISBN 978-1-921331-59-6
                                                                                 This publication may be of assistance to you but the
                                                                                 State of Victoria and its employees do not guarantee
                                                                                 that the publication is without flaw of any kind or is
                                                                                 wholly appropriate for your particular purposes and
                                                                                 therefore disclaims all liability for any error, loss or other
                                                                                 consequence which may arise from you relying on any
                                                                                 information in this publication.

				
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Description: ABORIGINAL GROUND-EDGE AXES