Why so many ancients made axes out of green stone

Eleanor Konik

Eleanor Konik

Professionally, I teach pre-teens about ancient civilizations. In my downtime, I enjoy combining storytelling with my love of sharing obscure history and science.


A character in the short story I'm working on is a woodworker. Since he's working with Bronze Age technology and about to flee his homeland because the priests are exploiting his girlfriend, I figured he would want to take his tools with him. So then I had to figure out what kinds of tools he would probably have...

Fun Facts

  • Ancient woodworkers cut down trees using axes and adzes (which have a 90 degree orientation for the blade) to "dress" the timber.
  • Adzes replaced axes as heavy woodworking tools for awhile in the early history of the Neolithic Levant, then the trend reversed as carpentry tools became more popular than tree-felling tools.
  • The ancient Egyptians invented 'veneering,' a process of gluing thin slices of wood together so that more expensive wood is visible.
  • The Romans invented augers (which have spoon-shaped metal tips) to replace the bow drills used by the Egyptians, along with claw hammers and wood planes.
  • Deforestation of Egyptian forests in the Second Dynasty led them to import cedar, pine, boxwood and oak instead of using acacia, sycamore, and tamarisk wood.

Wooden Joins

Woodworkers in ancient Germany, Egypt and China used mortise-and-tenon joints before nails became common. A man in China has revived the technique to create furniture that lasts much longer than glue-and-nail construction. [Read More]

Jade Tools

Māori used adze blades made from pounamu, a hard and durable green stone, even after the arrival of metal tools. When they were no longer useful for carving wood, they were reworked into ornamental pendants. [Read More]

Imported Stone

Woodworkers in the Neolithic Levant also imported green stone tools, which were polished and only rarely used for actual carpentry. They appear to have been social and spiritual symbols associated with vegetation, rain, fertility, virility, and strength. [Read More]

Sewn wood

"Phoenician joints" are a variation on mortise-and-tenon (basically built-in wooden pegs) that were used by shipbuilders in the eastern Levant, but early ships in Egypt were "sewn" together with woven straps and fiber stuffing. [Read More]

If you found this interesting, you may also enjoy my overview of tamarisk trees.


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