1. Ax Heads

The axe heads on display are dated to the late Middle Ages, circa 1200-1400 C.E., and, based on their designs and ironwork, can be traced back to northern Europe, specifically Scandinavia. Axes were very important tools in the Middle Ages, so naturally there were several different kinds, depending on the use that they would be put to. There are several battleaxes on display here. The Roen Ax is a basic example of a battleax: the edge of the blade fans above where the wood shaft would end, expanding the area of damage. Also, the space open for the wood shaft is very wide at one end, showing how large the handle would have to be for a firm grip, and smaller on the other end to lock the head in place. This axe, based on the fanning of the blade, would be a short handled, Scandinavian battleax, used for hand-to-hand combat as well as throwing. Halberd ax heads, like the Lake Darling and Frog Point halberds in the lower right of the display case, were a northern European favorite because they were one of the cheapest weapons to produce and were very flexible on the battlefield. Placed on the end of a pole, the halberd was usually used against mounted troops. Halberds like the designs here, however, were only used for a short time in the 1200-1300s as the halberd later developed a sharp point on the end, eventually becoming the pike. The Norway Lake Ax Head in the display on the right is also a type of battleax. Because of how the blade comes down like a beard, it is known as one of the battleaxes called a “bearded” ax that was used by Danes in the 1300s. This type of battleax was especially fierce in battle because of the long blade that extended the area of damage. However, not all axes were used for injury. The Mara and Mora axes were both used for woodcutting. The woodsman’s ax head design fits with Viking-age woodwork: rather than sawing a tree trunk into planks, they used a process known as “riving.” After cutting down a tree, they would drive the splitting wedge into the end of the trunk until it split open, and continue splitting each resulting piece until it needed more precise shaping, at which point they would again use the ax to slice through the wood to cut each piece into the desired size.