17th Century Biscayne Trade Axe Relic


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This is an extremely early trade axe known as a Biscayne Axe. It’s a ground find relic, but it’s in great condition, and has a known Biscayne Axe mark, which has previously been found on fur trade sites.

Check out the blog post I did on these axes:

Biscayne Trade Axes: the earliest known metal axes in North America

“The French Biscayne trade axes are the oldest style of metal axe we know of trade in North America . . . . Records show Biscay hatchets being traded to American Indians by the Spanish as early as 1520’s – 1540’s; the French from about 1560-1750’s; and the British from 1674-1690’s?” See https://www.furtradetomahawks.com/biscayne-trade-axes—9.html

One defining characteristic of these early trade axes is the oval, or ovalish, shape of the eye – which is where the wood haft is attached. Here, the eye is oval, but it’s been pounded flat on this end.

A “Biscayne axe” is more hatchet than axe.  It weighed about 1 lb. or less having a round or egg-shaped eye, no poll, and a short handle.  The handles were usually a simple rounded sapling or branch that would fit through the eye.

They were referred to as “Biscayne” axes as they were made from iron mined in the Bay of Biscay region of Spain and France.

The Spanish traders brought these axes first into the American Southeast.  They made their way to the Northeast via Basque and French fishing fleets visiting Newfoundland beginning in the mid-1500’s.

These “axes” were made entirely for trade.  There was no use for these small hatchets in Europe.  They were too small for felling or splitting.  So what did the Native American use the trade axe for?

The Biscayne axes could have been used to cut and trim saplings to make wigwams and other bark covered structures.  Of course, they could also be used as a weapon.  We know how important the Biscayne axes were to the Native Americans because these axes were often found at burial sites.

Additional information

Weight 18 oz
Dimensions 5 × 5 × 5 in