Wednesday, July 22, 2015

The Tomahawk, Scots-Irish Iconic Tool

The humble hand axe, or tomahawk, is an iconic tool of the Scots-Irish.  It was the multi-tool of its day, of use around the camp for cutting, splitting wood, to drive stakes, and also used for personal protection.  It was good in hand to hand close combat and a skilled wielder could throw it with great precision at ranges from five to twenty yards.   While some associate it with the frontier, its design and use goes back several thousand years.

hand axe in war from a medieval Gaelic manuscript 

typical frontier tomahawk
Small hand axes, of the same design and type as used by the Scots-Irish on the frontier, were in use since prehistoric times in both Ireland and Scotland.  The battle axe was called a tuagh (said Too-ah) in Gaelic.  There are many hundreds of them in the Irish National Museum.  Early ones are in stone and as technology improved they were made in copper, bronze, iron, and eventually steel.  From their ethnogenesis in Scotland, to their migration to Ireland, and then to the frontier of the New World, the hand axe, or tomahawk, has remained the one constant of Scots-Irish material culture. It was the Scots-Irish frontiersman that introduced the American Indians to the tool.
deployed American soldier with tomahawk
The tomahawk is still very much in use today and is just as useful in the 21st Century as it was to our Neolithic ancestors.

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