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Museum Monday: Northfleet Francisa throwing axe

Submitted by Jacob Scott on 31 October 2023

It's #MuseumMonday! Curator Andy Ward shares the Northfleet Francisca (throwing axe).

Posted 2nd October 2023

Museums and archaeological societies such as ourselves often come into the possession of objects through either gifts, donations, or fieldwork. However, the exact method or provenance of some objects are not always known. It is a constant project for curatorial staff to look into the object history of these objects.

A case in point is this Francisca reportedly from Northfleet, currently on display at Maidstone Museums. The original museum catalogue has the object as being part of the society's Anglo-Saxon collection, but exactly how the object came into our possession or how it came into the museum is unclear.

The Northfleet Francisa throwing axe on display at Maidstone Museum.

Francisca are a type of axe known as a throwing axe. They were the typical weapon of Frankish warriors throughout the 5th and 6th centuries. They went out of use by the 7th century before the Vikings took up their use again. Although the Franks gave us the name of the axe due to their heavy use of this type, Gregory of Tours (c. 538-594) uses two terms: Securis and Bipennis to describe them. They were used by numerous Germanic peoples including the Anglo-Saxons, with a number being found in England.

Museum documentation is a constant process and as more is understood about this object and others in the KAS collection we will be able to better understand their stories.