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In Photos: World's Oldest Ax Blade Found in Australia

Ax fragments

oldest ground-edge stone axe

(Image credit: Australian National University)

Archaeologists uncovered what could be the world's oldest stone ax blade in an ancient rock shelter in Australia.

Fragments of the ground-edge stone ax blade were found at the Carpenter's Gap archaeological site in northwestern Australia. The tool fragments are estimated to be between 46,000 and 49,000 years old. [Read full story about the ax blade discovery]

Blade detail

oldest ground-edge stone axe

(Image credit: Australian National University)

An example of a complete ground-edge axe head from Australia.

One of the key features of the newfound ax is that its stone blade has been ground down on both sides to form a beveled edge.

Ancient tools

oldest ground-edge stone axe

(Image credit: Australian National University)

Examples of full stone hafted (or handled) axes from Australia.

Researchers say these types of axes, used for heavier work, were distinctive to modern humans

Dig site map

oldest ground-edge stone axe, Carpenter's Gap dig site map

(Image credit: Australian National University)

A map of northwestern Australia that shows the location of archaeological digs at known early human habitation sites, including Carpenter's Gap.

Learning from the past

oldest ground-edge stone axe

(Image credit: Australian National University)

Archaeologist Sue O'Connor (right) found the ax fragments during digs in the 1990s at Carpenter's Gap. At left is study co-author Tim Maloney of the Australian National University.

Stone tools

oldest ground-edge stone axe

(Image credit: Australian National University)

An example of a complete ground-edge ax head from Australia.

Discussing history

oldest ground-edge stone axe

(Image credit: Australian National University)

Sue O'Connor (right), a professor in the School of Culture, History & Language at the Australian National University, and Tim Maloney (left), a Ph.D. graduate of the Australian National University, with a sample ax head.

Carpenter's Gap

oldest ground-edge stone axe, Carpenter's Gap

(Image credit: Australian Archaeology)

The Carpenter's Gap rock shelter in the Kimberley region of northwestern Australia.

Rock shelter

oldest ground-edge stone axe, Rock shelter

(Image credit: Australian Archaeology)

The entrance to the Carpenter's Gap 1 rock shelter in the Kimberley region of northwestern Australia.

Map of the dig

oldest ground-edge stone axe, carpenter's gap

(Image credit: Australian Archaeology)

Above: The Carpenter's Gap rock shelter in the Kimberley region of northwestern Australia.

Below: a map of the archaeological digs at the Carpenter's Gap 1 site.

History buffs

oldest ground-edge stone axe

(Image credit: Australian National University)

Sue O'Connor (right) and Tim Maloney (left) of Australian National University examine samples of hafted, or handled, stone axes.