For centuries, the axe has been a staple of human civilization. It was used for everything from chopping wood to hunting animals to fighting wars. In more recent years, the axe has found a new use: as a recreational activity. Here’s a brief history of axe throwing, from its humble beginnings in the Stone Age to its modern-day popularity at axe throwing bars.
The Stone Age: The Beginning of Axes
The first known instance of axe throwing occurred during the Stone Age. At that time, axes were primarily used for utilitarian purposes such as chopping wood and hunting animals. These were crude axes, more so stone fragments attached to sticks about 49,000 years ago. But these axes were an important tool for the time, as it was used for chopping down trees and other objects. It was also used as a weapon, as it was able to inflict a lot of damage. The axe helped to make life easier for the people, as it allowed them to chop down trees to build shelters and tools and to hunt animals for food. There are no indications that these axes were used for axe throwing.
The Bronze Age: Metal Axes Begin
The first metal axes appeared during the Bronze Age, which began around 3000 BC. These were more sophisticated than the Stone Age axes, as they were made of bronze or copper. However, they were still primarily used for utilitarian purposes not axe throwing, although they were used in battle. It wasn’t until the Iron Age, which began around 1200 BC, that metal axes became more common. This is because iron was a stronger metal than bronze or copper, and it could be sharpened to a finer edge. This made it more suitable for use as a weapon, and it soon became the preferred weapon of choice for many armies. The axe continued to be used for war throughout the Middle Ages and into the early modern period.
The Iron Age: Axes Become Weapons
During the Iron Age axes were used as both a tool and a weapon. But what historians have found is that axes used in battles were the same style of axe used for other tasks such as cutting wood. It wasn’t until the iron age that axes began to be created with a specific focus on warfare and fighting. This was when the idea of the battle axe began to take shape.
Axe Throwings Origin: When did axe throwing originate?
The first throwing axe was attributed to Teutonic tribes during the era of the Great Migration (400-500 AD). These axes were created with short handles and were made to be a lighter axe which allowed them to be thrown as a projectile in battle. The Frankish are another group that is said to use axe throwing on the battle field from a distance of 10 paces. These are the first instances we have found in history of axe throwing being used intentionally and could be the origin of axe throwing.
During excavations of burial sites in central Europe, historians uncovered an axe called the Franziska which the Franks used in battle before it began to spread to other cultures. Although it is still questioned how often in actual battle axes were thrown since it isn’t always a great strategy to throw your weapon. There are accounts from when the Franks attacked their enemies in Italy that axe throwing was a commonly used tactic in battle. It is mostly believed that around this time, a thrown axe was mainly used for hunting animals more commonly than in battle.
It’s clear to historians that the Franziska was created to be thrown if needed and when thrown with proper form, it could be an effective weapon from 4-5 meters away (a single rotation), 8-9 meters away (two rotations) and even 12-13 meters away (three rotations). This is something cool to remember when throwing a big axe now that the Franziska paved the way.
The Middle Ages: Axes as Weapons
During the Middle Ages, axes were primarily used as weapons. One of the most infamous users of the axe was the Vikings. These Scandinavian warriors were experts in using axes in combat, and they even had a special type of axe called a throwing axe that was specifically designed for throwing at enemies. While most Vikings probably didn’t use their axes for axe throwing leagues like we do, it’s safe to say that they played a significant role in popularizing the activity.
There were two types of axes used in combat:
- Heavy axes with shorter handles which were used for crushing opponents’ armor.
- Iron-throwing axes with a handle about 25-30 centimeters long with spiked butts that allowed them to pierce their enemies from distance were used during this time period.
- Long axes like the Bearded axe, which were about 1.4 meters long which, is the common axe shape many people think of today.
The Modern Era: Recreational Axe Throwing Leagues
Axe throwing began to gain popularity again in the latter half of the 20th century. This is from an increased interest in “woodsman” sports which started in North America. But, the sport of axe throwing started in Europe around 2001 in rural settings and became a sport under the EuroThrowers umbrella. According to accounts, I can track down the first commercial axe throwing venues began to pop up in 2016, offering a new way to enjoy axe throwing. In 2016 the National Axe Throwing Federation was founded (now called the Internation Axe Throwing Federation or IATF), creating an official championship and scoring system. Then in 2017, the World Axe Throwing League was founded by representatives from across the world but mainly in North America.
Today, recreational axe throwing and axe throwing competitions are enjoyed by people all over the world, with leagues and tournaments being held all over the world. And who knows? Maybe one day we’ll even see axe throwers competing in the Olympics! We have come from the first days of axe throwing.
The history of axe throwing is a really interesting and rich one that intertwines with the development of society itself. It’s come a long way since its humble beginnings in the Stone Age, evolving from a utilitarian activity to a deadly one and finally into a recreational one.
I hope you found axe throwing history as interesting as I have. If you want to stay on the cutting edge of competitive axe throwing then check out some of our other content.