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4 March 2007
Export bar placed on Neolithic 'Jadeite' axe-head

British Culture Minister, David Lammy, has placed a temporary export bar on a 'jadeite' Neolithic axe-head that once formed part of the collection of one of the fathers of British archaeology. This will provide a last chance to raise the money to keep the axe-head, which dates from before 4000 BCE, in the United Kingdom.
     The Minister's ruling follows a recommendation by the Reviewing Committee on the Export of Works of Art and Objects of Cultural Interest, run by the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council. The Committee recommended that the export decision be deferred on the grounds that the axe-head is so closely connected with British history and national life that its departure would be a misfortune, of outstanding aesthetic importance and of outstanding significance for the study of Neolithic Britain.
     Found near Sturminster Marshall, this Neolithic axe-head is a particularly fine specimen, beautifully shaped and polished, which shows off with considerable sophistication the tonalities and gradations of the fine hard 'jadeite' stone from which it is manufactured. Its importance is further enhanced by the fact that it once formed part of the historic collection of Lt-General Augustus Pitt Rivers, now recognised as one of the fathers of British archaeology.
     Such axes were never functional, but were already high status 'heirlooms' when they reached Britain around 6000 years ago, having been made some centuries before from rock quarried in the Italian Alps. New research is contributing much to our understanding of them and their meaning in the lives of those who made and acquired them.
     The decision on the export licence application for the axe-head will be deferred for a period ending on 20 April inclusive. This period may be extended until 20 July inclusive if a serious intention to raise funds with a view to making an offer to purchase the axe-head at the recommended price of 24,000 (excluding VAT) is expressed. Anyone interested in making an offer to purchase the axe-head should contact the owner's agent through: The Secretary, The Reviewing Committee on the Export of Works of Art and Objects of Cultural Interest, Museums, Libraries and Archives Council - Victoria House, Southampton Row, London WC1B 4EA (UK).

Source: UK Department for Culture, Media and Sport (23 February 2007)

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