Clough, T.H.McK., Cummins, W.A. (Eds.), 1979. Stone Axe Studies: Archaeological, Petrological, Experimental and Ethnographic, CBA Research Report No. 23. London, Council for British Archaeology.

The following description is reproduced from the Archaeological Data Service Website archive of this publication (ADS 2012; courtesy of the Archaeological Data Services and The Council for British Archaeology).

A PDF of this volume is available here or here.


Papers from a conference in 1977 demonstrate the progress made in petrological studies in particular, but also discuss the uses of ethnography evidence in understanding axe distributions. The history of implement petrology in Britain is outlined by W F Grimes (pp 1-4) from its formal beginnings in 1952. W A Cummins (5-12), in discussing distribution studies of the eight most abundant stone axe groups, pays special attention to the unusual patterns of Groups I and VI which appear to indicate a two-stage distribution process. Radiocarbon dates form the basis of I F Smith’s chronology (13-22) of British implements of Neo-BA; for shaft hole implements there is some additional help from typology. Further development of the typological theme comes from F E S Roe (23-48) on shaft hole implements (battle axes, mace heads, etc) particularly as the increasing availability of petrological identifications lends improved confidence.

From the Continent, C-T Le Roux (49-56) presents new data for some of the Breton petrological groups and discusses them in terms of social organization and axe production. Linear Pottery sites in the Netherlands have yielded adzes of various rock types from Central Europe, the Siebengebirge and Eifel, as discussed by C C Bakels and C E S Arps (57-64). In Britain again, T G Manby (65-81) presents a typological and distributional study of Yorkshire flint and stone axes, of which 700 have been sectioned; he also discusses the seasonal (transhumance) movements which might have brought Lake District axes to Yorkshire, and considers the problem of modern axe ‘forgeries’. The flint and stone axes of the E Midlands are C N Moore’s topic (82-6), while a field survey made on the Langdale and Scafell Pike axe factory sites in 1961 is described by C H Houlder (87-9).

The fine jade and jadeite implements of western Europe are studied by A R Woolley et al (90-6); their typology in terms of length, width and thickness ratios is worked out and related to the constituent pyroxenes as determined by electron microprobe analysis. Axe technology is discussed by G R Coope (98-101) who points out that while some rocks could be flaked and leave characteristic debris of axe-making, others had to be pecked into shape, leaving only dust residues. Experimental work on hafting and using stone axes is reported by A Harding & R Young (102-5), this is a long-tem forest clearance project. John Coles is also experimenting with stone axes for making wicker hurdles as found in the Somerset Levels (106-7).

Finally there are two ethnographic contributions: Pat Phillips (108-12) examines evidence from recent contexts of production, acquisition and consumption of stone axes in New Guinea, while prehistoric Australian stone exploitation and exchange systems are the topic of Isabel McBryde (113-26, with petrology by A Watchman)


  • Title pages
  • Editors’ foreword (p vi)
  • Implement Petrology Committee (p vi)
  • Contributors (p vi)
  • List of illustrations (pp vii-viii)
  1. The history of implement petrology in Britain by W F Grimes (pp 1-4)
  2. Neolithic stone axes: distribution and trade in England and Wales by W A Cummins (pp 5-12)
  3. The chronology of British stone implements by I F Smith (pp 13-22)
  4. Typology of stone implements with shaft holes, with appendix: catalogue of shaft hole implements made of grouped rocks by F E S Roe (pp 23-40; pp 41-48)
  5. Stone axes of Brittany and the Marches by C-T Le Roux (pp 49-56)
  6. Adzes from Linear Pottery sites: their raw material and their provenance by C C Bakels & C E S Arps (pp 57-64)
  7. Typology, materials, and distribution of flint and stone axes in Yorkshire, with by T G Manby (pp 65-78; pp 79-81)
  8. Stone axes from the East Midlands by C N Moore (pp 82-86)
  9. The Langdale and Scafell pike axe factory sites: a field survey by C H Houlder (pp 87-89)
  10. European Neolithic jade implements: a preliminary mineralogical and typological study by A R Woolley, A C Bishop, R J Harrison, & I A Kinnes (pp 90-96)
  11. Geochemistry and the provenance of flint axes (synopsis) by P R Bush & G de G Sieveking (p 97)
  12. The influence of geology on the manufacture of Neolithic and Bronze Age stone implements in the British Isles by G R Coope (pp 98-101)
  13. Reconstruction of the hafting methods and function of stone implements by Anthony Harding & Robert Young (pp 102-105)
  14. An experiment with stone axes by John Coles (pp 106-107)
  15. Stone axes in ethnographic situations: some examples from New Guinea and the Solomon Islands by Patricia Phillips (pp 108-112)
  16. Petrology and prehistory: lithic evidence for exploitation of stone resources and exchange systems in Australia by Isabel McBryde (pp 113-121)
  • Appendix: Petrology of the greenstone quarries and their products by Alan Watchman (pp 122-126)
  • A table of British Implement Petrology Groups (p 127)
  • A glossary of the petrological terms used in this volume (pp 128-130)
  • Index (pp 131-137)