Dagger, axe and arrow

Dagger, axe and arrow – symbols of power?

Some motifs immediately catch your eye when looking at the Laces menhir: daggers and axes. On closer inspection, you can also see a bow. These motifs are typical for the so-called male menhirs of the Adige Valley group. It is exciting that Ötzi also carried these objects. His axe had a copper blade, whereas dagger and arrows were made of flint. Were these symbols of power? The archeologist Hubert Steiner says: “The represented objects are the first achievements made of copper, the new material. Daggers, axes and the cloakpin are undoubtedly symbols of rank of the Copper Age, as cemeteries of the same period make clear. This shows that the picture stones represented high-ranking personalities. They came from an era that was characterized by major upheavals: Copper led to a considerably stricter social order and to the development of an upper class. The menhirs thus provide an insight into the traditional costume but also into the social fabric and not least into the ideological-religious beliefs of the people. It was mainly the fact that menhirs represent real persons in their traditional costumes or with their symbols of rank that led to the idea that they might be closely related to the ancestor worship and the heroization of some outstanding dead people.”

The dagger

Some daggers decorate the Laces menhir. It might be that the represented daggers are representations of metal daggers because copper as an emerging material was very probably very prestigious in the Copper Age. Ötzi carried a small dagger that was in a sheath made of knotted lime tree bast. His dagger had a flint blade and an ash wood handle. He used a retoucheur to sharpen flint tools. This tool was made from the stripped branch of a lime tree and sharpened like a pencil with a fragment from a fire-hardened deer antler that was hammered into the core of the branch. He also carried this retoucheur. During the Copper Age flint daggers processed on the surfaces and on both sides were a typical product from Northern Italy and are often referred to as Remedello daggers. In comparison with other finds, Ötzi’s dagger seems a bit small and consumed, which implies that the dagger wasn’t only a status symbol, but also had a practical benefit and was widely used. A flint blade that was part of a similar but slightly larger and more splendid dagger was found in Coldrano, a village belonging to the municipality of Laces. It also dates back to the Copper Age.

The axe

Some axes also decorate the Laces menhir. They probably are representations of copper axes. One of them might also be a double-bitted axe. The represented daggers might be representations of metal daggers because copper as an emerging material was very probably very prestigious in the Copper Age. Ötzi carried an axe. It was a small flanged axe with very poorly developed edges. It was made of almost pure copper that had been obtained from ore mined in South Tuscany according to the latest analysis. While copper axe blades from the Copper Age are known in great numbers, Ötzi’s axe is the only one that is preserved with a shaft. The axe shaft is made of yew, the blade is fixed to the shaft with birch tar and leather straps. You could fell trees with this axe. But maybe this precious axe wasn’t thought as an artifact, but as a weapon. Axes with stone blades were certainly still used for a long time for the daily work, which is also proved by the find from the Copper Age settlement in Laces.

The bow

A bow is depicted on the Laces menhir, which, however, is not clearly identifiable. The representation of a figure with drawn bow and axe definitely shows the use of this object. A 1.80 m-long bow was found near the site of the find of the mummy. It was made of yew wood, but doesn’t seem to be entirely completed. Furthermore, there was no bowstring. Ötzi also carried a leather quiver with 12 arrow shafts, two of them with flint arrows. The excavations in Laces also revealed some artifacts made of flint. Among them were arrowheads. Even though the population mainly lived on agriculture, bow and arrow were probably used for hunting. They might, however, also have been used as weapons.

The typical equipment in the Copper Age

Archaeological excavations of cemeteries from the Copper Age – above all the cemetery of Remedello near Brescia – show that the equipment of Ötzi the Iceman with bow, arrows, axe and dagger as well as the motifs represented on the Laces menhir were the typical equipment of a man from Northern Italy in the Copper Age. The archeologist Hubert Steiner says: „This shows that the picture stones represented high-ranking personalities. They came from an era that was characterized by major upheavals: Copper led to a considerably stricter social order and to the development of an upper class. The menhirs thus provide an insight into the traditional costume but also into the social fabric and not least into the ideological-religious beliefs of the people. It was mainly the fact that menhirs represent real persons in their traditional costumes or with their symbols of rank that led to the idea that they might be closely related to the ancestor worship and the heroization of some outstanding dead people. Menhirs always appear as a group, which might be an indication of a politically dominant family.“

Dagger
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Terra Raetica

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