The Shulishader Axe is Scotland’s only virtually complete prehistoric axe, it’s around 5,000 years old!

February 26, 2024

The Shulishader Axe is Scotland’s only virtually complete prehistoric axe, and it’s around 5,000 years old!

Exploring GB

This stone axehead, with its original wooden haft, was found in 1982 at Shulishader on Lewis in the Outer Hebrides, Scotland.

It provides important evidence on the mounting of axeheads.

The ancient axe was used sometime between 3495 and 2910 BC, according to National Museums Scotland.

Exploring GB

The haft is virtually complete, and has fine decorative toolmarks.

It has an oval opening for the axehead. The axehead appears to be of porcellanite from County Antrim in Ireland.

This is the only virtually complete prehistoric axe in Scotland – it was found in peat, and may possibly have been a votive deposit.

If the axehead is from Ireland, this adds to other evidence for contacts at this time between the Hebrides and Ireland.

Prehistoric axes were essential tools used for various purposes by early human societies – their usage evolved over time and varied across different regions and cultures.

Exploring GB

Axes were primarily used for cutting down trees and shaping wood – this was crucial for making shelters, constructing structures, crafting tools, and creating other objects necessary for daily life.

Prehistoric people used them to shape and craft other tools and implements from stone, bone, or wood.

Axes were also used in hunting for both offensive and defensive purposes.

They could be used to injure or kill animals, and also to butcher them for meat, hides, bones, and other resources.

In addition to hunting, axes helped produce weapons for self-defence and warfare – these were effective close-range weapons capable of inflicting serious injuries or fatalities.

Exploring GB

In the 19th and 20th centuries, more historic finds were found on the Isle of Lewis.

Several of the finds, including axe and spear heads, razors, fragments of a decorated container and the beads, are from a Late Bronze Age hoard found near Adabrock in 1910.

The sword’s blade is still reasonably sharp even after 3,000 years buried in the ground.

Archaeologists described the incredible discovery as one of the most diverse hoards to be discovered in Britain.

The sword is one of two found on separate occasions at Aird Dell in 1891 and 1892.

Exploring GB

The objects are now in held in the care of the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh.

Shulishader, where this historic axe was discovered, is a small village with a population of around 120 people.

Located on the north-western side of the Eye Peninsula, it overlooks Broad Bay.

Most of the village is over 60m above sea level, affording excellent views across the bay and northern Lewis, though the land falls gently towards the sea before ending in small cliffs.

There are several small, difficult to access, sandy beaches, and a small cove on the coastline.

Exploring GB

The cove is accessible via 88 dilapidated steps, and contains a pebble peach, some natural caves and a concrete structure once used for boat moorings above the high tide line.

The village is essentially a dormitory village, and there are no amenities within the village, not even a church, which is unusual for a Lewis village.

An hourly bus service passes through from Portnaguran to Stornaway and in the opposite direction, though services are less frequent in the evening.

The village is surrounded by common grazing land and moorland which is worked to provide peat as fuel, but this is a declining activity.

What was life like in Neolithic Scotland?In Neolithic Scotland, living conditions underwent significant changes compared to earlier periods, as communities transitioned from a primarily hunter-gatherer lifestyle to settled agricultural societies.

Exploring GB

Neolithic communities in Scotland established permanent settlements, often located near fertile land suitable for agriculture.

These settlements ranged from small hamlets to larger villages, and they typically consisted of clusters of roundhouses made of stone or timber.

These houses were often circular in shape with thatched roofs and could accommodate extended families.

Neolithic houses were typically constructed with locally available materials, such as stone, timber, turf, and thatch.

Stone-built houses were more common in regions with abundant stone resources, while timber structures were prevalent in areas with dense forests.

Exploring GB

Houses were usually small, with one or two rooms, and they often included hearths for cooking and warmth.

Agriculture became a primary means of subsistence during the Neolithic period in Scotland.

Communities cultivated crops such as barley, wheat, oats, and legumes in fields cleared from the surrounding woodlands.

They also domesticated animals such as cattle, sheep, pigs, and possibly goats, which provided meat, milk, wool, and other resources.

Hunting, fishing, and gathering remained supplementary activities, but farming became increasingly important for sustaining growing populations.

Exploring GB

With the advent of agriculture, Neolithic communities developed methods for storing surplus food.

They constructed storage pits and underground cellars to store grains, vegetables, and other foodstuffs. This enabled them to store food through the winter months and during times of scarcity.

Neolithic society in Scotland likely had a hierarchical structure, with individuals or families holding positions of leadership or influence within their communities.

Ritual and ceremonial activities were important aspects of Neolithic life, as evidenced by the construction of megalithic monuments such as stone circles, chambered cairns, and passage graves.

These structures may have served as gathering places for communal rituals, ceremonies, and ancestor veneration.

Exploring GB

If you enjoyed this blog post, please follow Exploring GB on Facebook for daily travel content and inspiration.

Don’t forget to check out our latest blog posts below.

Thank you for biding Exploring GB.