Late Bronze Age Geistingen axes, found near Geistingen, Belgium (fig.1), are socketed bronze axes whose function remains somewhat enigmatic. Their thin walls and absence of use-wear traces suggest that axes of this type may have had other than purely functional purposes. This paper describes a microstructural investigation on samples taken from two broken Geistingen axes in order to elucidate the production process and assess the axes’ functionality.
One axe has been identified as copper with 9 at% tin and the other as a ternary alloy of copper with 4 at% antimony and 6 at% nickel. It is concluded that the two axes have been produced from different raw materials (probably re-melted scrap) and have subsequently been cast into a bronze bi-valve mould. Features of the microstructure, like the distribution of inclusions and the secondary dendrite arm spacing, allowed the determination of applied temperature ranges and the average cooling rate during solidification, which indicated that both axes were rapidly cooled using water.
It is suggested that these Geistingen axes were produced for votive or ritual practices or as a certain type of ingot and were not primarily used as tools or weapons.