From byblos to vapheio: Fenestrated axes between the aegean and the levant

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The find of an early Mycenaean tholos tomb at Vapheio (Tsountas 1889) brought to light two unusual objects: a seal showing a person in long robes holding a fenestrated ax, and the Vapheio ax, the latter a unique and heavy fenestrated ax with no parallels in the Aegean to date. Scholars from Evans to Maran have argued for a non-Aegean, Levantine origin of this type of ax. This article, therefore, attempts to find the origin of this ax type and to point to its symbolic meaning in the Levant and later in the Aegean. It is argued that the Vapheio ax was a Levantine product produced long before the end of the Middle Bronze Age, sometime between the 20th and late 18th centuries b.c. At least some of the symbolic meaning of the ax as an attribute of rulership in the Levant was transferred to Minoan Crete. By the time the ax, and its related Levantine-inspired iconography, reached Vapheio and was deposited in the tomb, it was a centuries-old ceremonial weapon, and without doubt it was perceived as a formidable symbol of power.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)139-150
Number of pages12
JournalBulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research
StatePublished - May 2015


  • Aegean iconography
  • Axes
  • Interactions between the Aegean and the Levant
  • Levant
  • Middle Bronze Age
  • Symbolism of rulership
  • Vapheio

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Archaeology
  • Cultural Studies
  • History
  • Archaeology


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