Ceremonial Ax

Period: Bronze and Iron Age period

Date: ca. 500 B.C.–A.D. 300

Culture: Indonesia

Medium: Translucent agate

Dimensions: H. 8 1/8 in. (20.6 cm); W. 3 9/16in. (9 cm)

Classification: Sculpture

Credit Line: Samuel Eilenberg Collection, Bequest of Samuel Eilenberg, 1998

Accession Number: 2000.284.67


Ax heads made of both stone and bronze are common to the early cultures of South China, Thailand, Vietnam, and Indonesia. Examples dating from the Neolithic period and the early Bronze Age, with rounded heads and simple sockets, are often found in burials, illustrating their value as tools, weapons, and items of prestige. Bronze examples produced during the later part of the Bronze and Iron Age are often in fanciful shapes such as a boat or foot, or have flamboyant curving blades. This highly polished, elegant agate example was most likely a symbol of prestige and may have been used in a burial or given as a gift to mark a political alliance or intermarriage.