Hand axes have been with us for millennia, through the Stone and Bronze Ages, since man first crafted a tool. The precursor to the modern steel axe, flinted objects were used in everyday life for killing prey on the hunt, stripping meat from a carcass and for carving bone into tools or amulets. Revered for their functionality and the reliance early man had on them, they became worthy of decoration. A postgraduate study at the University of Southampton revealed the existence of two distinct Neanderthal cultures in Europe, based on the designs of their axe heads. The Neanderthals inhabited a western and eastern region, now France and Germany. The western Neanderthal culture made symmetrical, triangular and heart-shaped hand axes. During the same period, the eastern Neanderthal culture created asymmetrical bifacial blades. Furthermore, groups from both tribes living near their borders in modern day Belgium, crafted axes using a combination of both the western and eastern designs. Dr Karen Ruebens, of the Centre for the Archaeology of Human Origins (CAHO), believes this suggests “distinct ways of making a hand axe (that) were passed on from generation to generation”. To my mind, this also shows an interest in defining weapons and territory through art, and that they were open to accepting influences from neighbouring civilisations.