Found and Restored: 17th Century Biscayne Trade Axe!!!
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Thread: Found and Restored: 17th Century Biscayne Trade Axe!!!

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  1. #1
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    Max

    Aug 2016
    Upstate, NY
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    Found and Restored: 17th Century Biscayne Trade Axe!!!

    I actually recovered this some weeks back, but between the preservation research it's taken me awhile to put this together. The research was especially thorough because I know quite a few hatchets can resemble trade axes, and true Biscayne trade axes are quite rare. But against all odds it appears I've found the real deal!

    I was doing some more gridding around where I found all those IHPs and seated dimes last year. Clearly a Victorian campsite of some sort, but I was hoping for some more coins so I gridded much further away from the main scatter this time. No luck on more coins and almost nothing in the soil besides a couple oxe shoes and a modified conestoga bell. When I pulled the axe head out of the ground it appeared to be just another 19th century iron relic so I put it in the bag with the rest and continued on my way. It wasn't until I cleaned everything up and took a closer look that I started to suspect that I had found a much older piece.

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    Even for a 19th century piece of iron, the rusting on this axe head would have been fairly minor. This flat area is raised above the nearby river by a good 10-20 feet and almost entirely sandy soil so I suspect any water runs off quickly. It's quite fortunate because otherwise I would never have spotted the faint four lobed mark imprinted into the surface.

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    The touchmark combined with the odd shape is what jogged my memory and made me start to think that I had found a trade axe. But to be sure I would have to clean off the rust and if this was in fact a trade piece I wanted to do so in a way that would preserve as much metal as possible and prevent any future corrosion.

    So into the electrolysis tank it would have to go!

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    I actually built one specifically for this piece. I wanted to be able to check on it frequently and control the treatment rate carefully so only one carbon electrode and a relatively small bath. After testing it on a few less important pieces it was ready for the crucial relic.

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    The above progression photos are of the axe head at the start, midway, and at the end. Lots of pitting, which is expected, but incredibly some of the original flat surface survived! I also found that both sides of the trade axe have the same touchmark. After I scrubbed off all the carbon deposits and was sure that absolutely no rust remained, I put it in hot wax (300 F) for well over an hour. Once no more bubbles were emanating from the piece it was finally done:

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    The result is an incredible artifact and I'm certain that this is a trade piece as opposed to a later reproduction. The touchmark matches number 3 in the below table which is from the reference book, Les Armes de Traité. It also has the correctly shaped eye that's produced from the very specific blacksmith method for manufacturing them.

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    Trade axes like these were made starting in the 16th century and production continued until the early 18th century. However the style of construction changed over the centuries so they can be somewhat dated by the profile shape of the blade. Also of interesting note is that this particular touchmark is found most associated with Oneida tribe sites and between the approximate dates of 1575 and 1670. Kind of amazing to think that this could be a 16th century piece, although I think it's more likely mid 17th century.

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    I found this on the East side of the Hudson, but many miles up a tributary. I suspect it wasn't directly traded for in this area, but rather made it's way down from the St. Lawrence Seaway. Must have been an incredible journey back when the land was entirely primordial forests. Even if this originated in Montreal, it still would have been more than 250 miles on foot or by canoe to get to where I found it. I've known there was indigenous activity in this area for awhile and the field almost directly across the river is where I found my first and second stone points! But even still, finding a trade axe is more than I could have hoped for!

    An incredible piece of history, one that I never expected to uncover, and certainly my best iron relic to date!

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  2. #2
    us
    Feb 2015
    Yacolt WA
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    Wow, may I offer my admiration of your efforts to bring this history to light on your piece.

    Awesome!
    paleomaxx and PetesPockets55 like this.

  3. #3
    us
    Max

    Aug 2016
    Upstate, NY
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    Wow, may I offer my admiration of your efforts to bring this history to light on your piece.

    Awesome!
    Thank you! This relic was particularly fun to research and really lead down the rabbit hole! I was reading archeological summaries and that book I referenced above is actually written in French which made it a little challenging to find and work through. Really a ton of interesting history around these trade axes and the early fur trade in general. The European traders would bring over textiles, muskets, silver jewelry, and beads but it seems the axes were prized by the Native Americans. Apparently some have been found in burial context which suggests that they were pieces with personal significance as opposed just just simple tools.

    This one was far too shallow for a burial so I think it was just lost, but maybe it suggests that this spot was a convenient river campsite for hundreds of years before the local settlers used it for the same purpose. I bet there are points in the ground two; locked away under the forest loam!

  4. #4
    us
    Feb 2015
    Yacolt WA
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    The research enhances the joy of the find! Good work!
    paleomaxx and PetesPockets55 like this.

  5. #5
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    us
    Randy

    Aug 2017
    SW Missouri/Oklahoma
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    Nice!!! Congrats!!!
    paleomaxx likes this.
    What would life be without challenges, and detecting of course.....

  6. #6
    us
    Sep 2020
    Oklahoma
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    Stellar research and a beautiful find!
    paleomaxx likes this.

  7. #7
    us
    Sep 2012
    Orange, Massachusetts
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    Nice restoration!

    aj
    paleomaxx and PetesPockets55 like this.
    Target must be in the ground...Coil must swing over target...User must dig.

    Gold for the money...silver for the pleasure...copper for the history.

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  8. #8

    May 2008
    XP Deus
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    I like that find Paleo!
    paleomaxx likes this.

  9. #9
    us
    Get Out And Dig!

    Aug 2017
    Milwaukee WI
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    I like the axe but I like your write up the best. I have been lucky to find 3 where I live. 2 of them have the same mark as yours. I've heard it called a Jesuit Cross. I was happy to find out how old they are. Dont think Ill find another one. I may have to give the electrolysis a try. One I cleaned with vinegar but I don't like the way it turned out. The last one I found I didn't clean yet.
    pepperj and PetesPockets55 like this.
    My METAL DETECTOR is actually a TIME MACHINE

  10. #10
    us
    Mar 2013
    Southern Louisiana
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    That axe is beautiful. It's incredible to hold something like that in your hands.

    I do have a question, having found a few old ax heads on my own property (I may have to take a photo and post them today). Where is the touchmark? I am sure it is me, but I can't see it. I'd like to know where they are placed on the heads.
    PetesPockets55 likes this.
    "The best thing for being sad is to learn something. Learn why the world wags and what wags it.

  11. #11
    Charter Member
    us
    Dig everything!

    Sep 2018
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    Stunning find and very well conserved.
    PetesPockets55 likes this.
    "There is something in a treasure that fastens upon a man's mind. He will pray and blaspheme and still persevere, and will curse the day he ever heard of it, and will let his last hour come upon him unawares, still believing that he missed it only by a foot..." Joseph Conrad

  12. #12
    Charter Member
    us
    ARC

    Aug 2014
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    This was brought to my attention... Paleo... Unfortunately I do not agree... sorry man... and which in the grand scheme of things... who cares right ? ? ?

    There are a few "red flags" for this...

    Although its a nice find...

    1. The overall appearance screams modern to me.

    2. No fold... which means it was cast... and that makes it modern.

    3. Perfect cuts and angles also points modern.

    4. Deterioration of metal "pock marks" for lack of the real term in my mind right now... is not indicative of other heads of this period. (NOW this could be due to an "element situation")

    5. and..... most importantly... This "style"... IS NOT... a 16th century style hatchet... which is what it is... not an "axe".


    Sorry... but... hey... "it is what it is".

    LOve to be proven wrong.

    Here is a picture of the early styles of what was around...

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    DETECT WITH RESPECT - Have permission... Fill holes... Dispose of trash. - The Random Chat Thread - http://www.treasurenet.com/forums/ev...en-24-7-a.html

  13. #13
    ca
    Feb 2009
    Deus, Minelab 3030, E-Trac,
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    I was where is this touch mark ref.?? Then I looked and looked and there it was in this photo. Seems like others have missed it as well.
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    When I looked at this photo it says newer-than older as it seems just too manufactured looking.
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    Now the little one I found didn't have a touch mark, and it was the style that one would expect from a blacksmith folding the iron over and pounding it into shape.
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    Now that being said would a large foundry produce a head like what was found (marker's mark confirms) and smaller blacksmith's produce the one I recovered? I have no answer for this.

    Though let me state I have enjoyed reading and looking at the process of restoration of the head and the find. Congrats on both.
    "If it was easy-It would have already been done-Life 101."
    I treat the outside world as one raw very warm wet chicken that has sitting out too long. wash and sterilize everything me touches. pepperj

  14. #14
    Charter Member
    us
    ARC

    Aug 2014
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    Pepper... glad your weighing in on this...

    AND... I am glad you posted a picture of yours... WHICH IS definitely period.

    Notice the "fold"... now some are "better" done and less pronounced... but there is almost always a "sign" of the work... also the "crude" overall feel and look.

    The touch mark on Paleo's has been and IS STILL produced in India last I checked over a year ago... in fact... it was one of the more "common" touches they imitated.
    pepperj likes this.
    DETECT WITH RESPECT - Have permission... Fill holes... Dispose of trash. - The Random Chat Thread - http://www.treasurenet.com/forums/ev...en-24-7-a.html

  15. #15
    Charter Member
    us
    May 2007
    central pa
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    great post - really nice!

    vp

 

 
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