Greenlaw’s prehistoric weapon basis of national exhibition

SBBN Greenlaw Axe head Photo by  Phil Wilkinson
SBBN Greenlaw Axe head Photo by Phil Wilkinson

A 6,000-year-old axe discovered near Greenlaw is to be the key attraction in a National Museum of Scotland exhibition.

A new display at the Edinburgh museum will showcase National Museums Scotland’s rarely seen collection of Scottish Stone Age jade axeheads, including one discovered on Greenlawdean.

SBBN Greenlaw Axe head Photo by  Phil Wilkinson

SBBN Greenlaw Axe head Photo by Phil Wilkinson

The exhibition opens today, Friday 20 May.

These often exquisite axeheads were created over 6,000 years ago, high in the Italian Alps, and were brought to Scotland by pioneering farming groups from northern France.

Now, thanks to a French-led project involving National Museums Scotland – Projet Jade – the fascinating story of their creation, use and astonishing 1,500km journey to Scotland has been revealed.

These were not, as might be thought, everyday tools for felling trees and chopping wood. They were very special, ceremonial objects. It is believed that Neolithic people associated mountains with the realm of the gods and they may have felt that these hard-won pieces of mountains possessed divine powers to protect and heal.

Running alongside the exhibition will be a display of Tim Pomeroy’s contemporary sculpture, Axehead.

Axehead, a stone sculpture, was inspired by these remarkable archaeological finds and was designed to reflect their power, status and ceremonial or spiritual purpose. The artist was born in Hamilton in 1957 and has worked as a full time artist since graduating from Gray’s School of Art in 1981. Now based on the Isle of Arran, he is renowned as one of Britain’s foremost stone carvers.

Tim Pomeroy said: “These Stone Age jade axeheads are works of both immense skill and of a highly developed, visual, manual and spiritual sophistication. As an artist I am inspired by these qualities. I have always been interested in notions of utility, the Sacred, and power and how these properties combine within the contexts of art and ritual.”

Dr Alison Sheridan, principal curator of early prehistory in the Department of Scottish History and Archaeology, said: “We are delighted to have this opportunity to tell the stories behind these extraordinary jade axeheads for the first time. Tim Pomeroy’s exquisite sculpture will complement the display and highlight the ways in which these ancient and precious artefacts continue to inspire and fascinate us today.”