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Tomahawk or hatchet with iron metal blade and buffalo hide wrapped around the wood shaft / Native American; Plains


Iron metal blade; wooden handle wrapped with hide (buffalo?). The hide is attached with brass tacks. A leather loop at the butt end of the handle is decorated with red horsehair.

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 or hatchet with iron metal blade and buffalo hide wrapped around the wood shaft
Native American; Plains
18th century
wood, iron, buffalo hide, horse hair, fur, shell
Object Type: 
Accession No: 
Previous Number(s): 
Engles #265
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