HIAG visit to the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology.
2pm – 4 pm on Tuesday 9th April 2019
Led by: Imogen Gunn, Collections Manager for Archaeology.
The MAA holds a number of objects from Histon and Impington, This includes Neolithic axes, including the jadeite axe pictured above, a Bronze Age palstave (bronze axe head) and a number of Roman objects. These plus a wider selection of objects from nearby areas were on display in the museum workroom where 12 members of HIAG congregated
Imogen gave us a brief introduction to the museum and the workroom, including handling guidelines, and a brief explanation of what was on the long table in front of us. There were catalogue record print-offs of each object. The objects were laid out so that we could rotate around the table to see everything over the course of our time there. It felt very privileged to be able to directly handle these objects.
Perhaps the star was the jadeite axe, normally on display in the first exhibition room. More information on this axe can be found below
The museum holds around one million artefacts in its stores – only a fraction are on display at any one time. The rest can be accessed on request, most commonly by researchers. A basic searchable online catalogue of the collection can be found at collections.maa.cam.ac.uk .
The Histon and Impington Jadeite Axe was made around 5000 years ago. It is probably the most remarkable archaeological discovery from Histon and Impington. It was found in about 1900 by a gardener, 4 feet from the surface when planting a hedge at the residence of Mr. Chivers. (We think Mr. Stephen Chivers who built a large house called Victoria House in 1875 on the site of what is now Homefield Park. It is a beautifully shaped, thin and highly polished axe made from a mineral called jadeite. This axe and others like it was sourced from a high mountain quarry in Italy so it appears that axes like this were traded over long distances. Given the extreme hardness of the mineral it would have required great skill and time to produce. It is highly unlikely that a precious objects such as this were ever intended to be used as a tool and they show no sign of wear. They more probably either symbolised the power and status of their owner or were used as ritual objects. However less elaborate stone axes set in wooden handles were undoubtedly a practical and revolutionary tool that transformed society and the landscape after the Ice Age. They allowed people to clear forests, to plant crops and graze animals. The earliest known British farmers came from the continent. This was the beginning of the age of great stone monument building such as at Stonehenge.