The T-shaped “axe” from Northeast Honduras: Observations on chronology and function of a pre Columbian stone tool

  • Paul F. Healy Trent University
  • Daniel Savage Trent University
Keywords: archaeology of Central America; Honduras; lithics; T-shaped axes; chronology; microscopic analysis; tool function


This paper provides a description and analysis of a distinctive type of pre-Columbian stone tool, usually termed a T-shaped axe, found almost exclusively in Northeast Honduras, Central America. There have been very few detailed or technical studies of lithics from Honduras. Early archaeological research and the current understanding of the regional prehistory are included, with Northeast Honduras viewed as a frontier zone located between the Mesoamerican and Isthmo-Columbian culture areas. Our study examines, in particular, a collection of these tools curated today at the Cambridge University Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology (CUMAA). The 39 (whole and fragmentary) specimens were collected between 1937 and 1939, from the Bay Islands, Northeast Honduras, but have never been published. This paper classifies the collection specimens into five varieties, based on morphology, with sample statistics, form dimensions, and illustrations provided for each. Manufacturing technology is primarily percussion flaking. The tool type is compared with similar specimens excavated and described from the Bay Islands and adjacent Honduran mainland, and with similar appearing implements from elsewhere in Central America. Insights about the possible age and function of these unusual, and distinctive, lithics are included. Based on preliminary macroscopic and microscopic analyses, it is concluded that the tools may have been employed as agricultural implements (hoes or spades), primarily for digging activities, rather than as axes or weapons used for cutting and slicing. It is most likely that these implements first appeared about 800 CE, and continued in use until at least 1400 CE. The tool type is most probably a local (not imported) product. More functional analysis is encouraged.

Author Biography

Daniel Savage, Trent University

Department of Anthropology
Trent University
Peterborough, Ontario
K9J 7B8


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How to Cite
Healy, P., & Savage, D. (2021). The T-shaped “axe” from Northeast Honduras: Observations on chronology and function of a pre Columbian stone tool. Journal of Lithic Studies, 8(1), 22 p.
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