cornish stone axes
stone axes are grouped according to petrological, mineralogical and textural criteria. over 40 different axe groups are recognised from a total of 7625 axes found in britain (of which only 3546 have been grouped) (clough and cummings, 1988). just over 1000 axes are made of greenstone, of which 392 members (referred to a ‘group 1’) have been identified as being manufactured in west cornwall and possibly originating from the mount’s bay area (figure 1), largely on the basis of the site of origin and the local presence of greenstone (stone, 1951). see map.
group 1 axes, originally catalogued in the 1940s (keiller, 1941), are broadly described as uralitized gabbro with original pyroxene and feldspar, with the characteristic development of a uralitic fringe of blue-green amphibole around the primary pyroxene; epidote, sphene and chlorite are common accessory minerals. because this assemblage and texture is a very common feature of many cornish greenstones, the actual outcrops, representing the stone age factories used by neolithic man, have never been positively identified. however, the assumed manufacture from this area is still largely based on the apparent similarity between a petrographic examination of thin sections of greenstone axes and the outcrops in the mount’s bay area. a non destructive method of matching has now been undertaken to establish closer maths. early results indicate that some of the axes falling presently within group 1 may well have to be reclassified. further work on existing petrographic thin sections and accession records is being carried out to determine which axes are to be eliminated from group 1.