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Stone Age Weapons & Cutting Tools: Knives & Hand Axes

Instructor: Tommi Waters

TK Waters has a bachelor's degree in literature and religious studies and a master's degree in religious studies and teaches Hebrew Bible at Western Kentucky University.

Have you ever wondered what Stone Age people used for tools? Tools and weapons were more than just clubs. They were developed into various forms with sharp edges, which you can learn more about in this lesson.

Stone Age Tools and Weapons

Have you ever used a stone knife to cut your meals? For the Stone Age people, ironically, almost all their tools were made of stone! The Stone Age was named for this, actually - though other rudimentary materials like wood, bone, and antlers were also used. It was a period of time from the beginning of humanity until around 10,000 BC. People in the Stone Age were not concerned with fancy tools or weapons, but needed them for basic survival and scavenging purposes. Over time, the complexity of the tools developed as the Stone Age people became more settled and set up civilizations.

Hand-Axes

Perhaps the most common tool of the Stone Age was the hand-axe. When most people think of an axe, they picture something like a Paul Bunyan lumberjack axe with a wooden handle and steel blade. The hand-axe, however, was nothing like this - it did not even have a traditional axe shape. Hand-axes had a variety of different shapes, from circular to triangular, but most archaeological finds are tear-drop shaped hand-axes. These tools were used for cutting, probably for meat and skinning, and for scavenging. They were possibly used for throwing at animals to kill or injure them while hunting.

Illustration of a hand holding a hand-axe
Illustration of a hand holding a hand-axe

Hand-axes, as you can see, could be pretty useful tools, so it is not surprising that they are the oldest tool in existence - almost 2 million years old! The earliest type of hand-axe is called the Acheulean hand-axe, and is from the Paleolithic Age - the oldest part of the Stone Age. Hand-axes were made from different types of hard rocks, like flint, obsidian, and granite. They were not just rocks though - in the earlier Stone Age, the hand-axes had sharp tips on them, while the later Stone Age people learned how to make sharp edges on them through a process called flaking. This involved chipping away pieces of the stone from the edges.

Knives

Knives today can serve many different purposes, such as preparing food, or using as a weapon. Knives in the Stone Age were no different in that sense, but looked quite a bit different. Unlike our knives that have a blade with a handle of a different material, Stone Age knives were just one-piece of hard rock. They varied in size - some could be barely bigger than your thumbnail, while others were larger than your hand.

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