We acknowledge the Gadigal of the Eora Nation, the traditional custodians of the Country on which the Art Gallery of NSW stands.


Axe head

3rd century BCE-2nd century BCE


Unknown Artist

  • Details

    Cultural origin
    Dongson culture (c400s BCE - c100 CE)
    3rd century BCE-2nd century BCE
    Media category
    Arms & armour
    Materials used
    14.5 x 14.9 cm
    Signature & date

    Not signed. Not dated.

    Goldie Sternberg Southeast Asian art purchase fund 1998
    Not on display
    Accession number

    Reproduction requests

  • About

    Finely cast in good-quality dark green alloy, this axe head is decorated in shallow relief on both sides. The stylised animal, fish and bird motifs are typical of the Dong Son decorative repertoire. On one side along the edges the stylised shapes of two confronting crocodiles frame a squid motif (at the top) and two long beaked aquatic birds standing in a fish-filled pond (bottom). The other side depicts two confronting dragon-like animals above two humped bulls and a man. While similarly shaped battle axes have been found throughout maritime Southeast Asia, the quality and elaborate decoration on this piece indicate it was a ritual object, probably part of the grave goods of a community leader.

    The Asian Collections, AGNSW, 2003, pg.298.

  • Exhibition history

    Shown in 1 exhibition

  • Bibliography

    Referenced in 6 publications