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Primitive Skills: Making an Ötzi the Iceman Copper Axe Part II

Recently we shared Shawn Woods’ effort to recreate Otzi the Iceman’s copper axe head. Here is Part II of the project: making the handle.

A couple weeks ago, primitive technology expert Shawn Woods showed how he made a copy of the copper axe head carried by Otzi the Iceman. Woods created the axe head by using techniques similar to those thought to be used by Otzi himself.

Woods reproduced the axe head by making a mold into which he poured molten copper, before further shaping the head with some hand work. Watch that video here.

In this video he completes the project by fashioning the axe handle, using the materials and concepts the Iceman may have employed himself.

The handle Woods crafted used the same type of wood as found in Otzi’s axe handle: yew wood. Yew is classified as a softwood, but was valued for its resilience and strength, and was used extensively in fashioning bows in ancient times. It served as excellent handle material for Otzi’s own axe.

Woods briefly describes the general character of the handle and its desired shape for securing the copper axe head. Using birch tar glue, which Woods also explains how to make, and a long leather thong, he firmly binds the axe head to the handle just as it was in Otzi’s own axe.

The Iceman’s axe is a very simple but effective tool and weapon, but from our perspective its beauty and elegance is perhaps more appreciated than its utilitarian value.

In any event, projects such as this, which you can recreate yourself with the help of Woods’ direction, offer a wonderful insight into prehistoric life, as well as resulting in a unique display piece.

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Primitive Skills: Making an Ötzi the Iceman Copper Axe

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Primitive Skills: Making an Ötzi the Iceman Copper Axe Part II