Published online by Cambridge University Press: 10 March 2015
By examining their rock sources and mode of manufacture, the author offers a new interpretation for the Neolithic polished axe blades found in the western Alpine region. The dominant examples were made from rock extracted on the Italian side of the Alps (eclogitic) and finished in workshops on the French side. These first appeared as large blades with symbolic status, as part of the Neolithic expansion in North Italy. By the middle Neolithic the blades were reduced in size, but enjoying their widest distribution, creating a cultural zone on the left bank of the Rhône, more than 200 km from their source. In the late Neolithic, although the zone of influence was still large, the eclogites in the Rhône Valley were giving way to more local rock sources and copper. The fluctuations in this supply are interpreted as reflecting the varied political relations of Alpine communities.