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Tomahawk with iron metal blade and “bleeding heart” cut-out design / Native American; Osage (artist and user)


Tomahawk -- Iron metal blade with a “bleeding heart” cut-out design; The wooden handle is wrapped in dark blue cloth with fringes at the end of the handle. This type is often referred to as the Missouri War Hatchet.

The iron/steel axe (tomahawk) rapidly replaced stone axes and became one of the most popular trade goods made available to Native Americans by European traders. Tomahawks quickly became the weapon of choice, especially during the 16th and 17th centuries. By about 1700, specialized forms with spikes or pipes appeared.

The triangular and axe-like design of the tomahawk was likely introduced by French traders in the early 1700s and was first called the Missouri war hatchet or axe. As well as the popular triangular design, two other forms were used. The spontoon tomahawk resembled the fleur-de-lis and, therefore, was known as the French type. It was also considered old-fashioned because it resembled weapons used in Europe in the 16th and 17th centuries. The other form had a flared blade, which was a popular design in Europe, especially Spain. By the mid to late 1800s, the tomahawk was likely used more for ceremonies than for actual warfare (Taylor 2001, 24-30).

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Tomahawk with iron metal blade and “bleeding heart” cut-out design
Native American; Osage (artist and user)
late 19th century
wood, stroud cloth, iron
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Not On View

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