High School Students Discover 6,000-Year-Old Ax At Mount Vernon

A 6,000-year-old ax head from Mount Vernon.

A 6,000-year-old ax head from Mount Vernon.

A couple of high school students dug up a 6,000-year-old stone ax head while they were helping to map the dimensions of a cemetery during a field trip to Mount Vernon. 

The ancient ax was found by Dominic Anderson and Jared Phillips, who are seniors at Archbishop Hoban High School in Akron, Ohio. They boys were sifting through some dirt when they discovered the object and asked Joe Downer, one of the archeologists they were working with, what it was. 

“I was kind of taken aback when I saw it,” Downer told the Washington Post in a phone interview. “I looked at it, and I held it for a minute, and I was like, ‘Well, that might be one of the coolest things we found out here.’”

Officials from Mount Vernon, the historic Virginia home of George Washington, said that the ax was likely not used as a weapon, rather it was a tool for cutting and carving wood. 

“The ax provides a window onto the lives of individuals who lived here nearly 6,000 years ago,” said Sean Devlin, Mount Vernon’s curator of archaeological collections. “Artifacts, such as this, are a vital resource for helping us learn about the diverse communities who shaped this landscape throughout its long history.”

The ax is seven inches long and three inches wide and was made by a skilled craftsman.

To create this axe, a craftsperson worked a river cobble by first “chipping” it with a hammer stone to create a cutting edge along the face of the axe. The burgeoning tool was then hammered with a harder stone to create a smoother cutting surface by removing smaller amounts of the raw stone from the axe. These surfaces appear to have been ground, or smoothed, one final time through the use of a hard grinding stone. Finally, a groove was pecked along the backend of the axe head. This groove would have facilitated the attachment of a wooden handle to the axe for its use in wood cutting.

Photo: Mount Vernon