An excavation of the Dinggeng archaeological site in Wuxi City, eastern China, has unearthed a rare stone axe of the Neolithic Liangzhu Culture engraved on both sides with tigers, clouds and birds. Birds and cloud patterns have been found on Liangzhu axes before, but this is the first one with a tiger pattern ever discovered.
Discovered during construction work in 2020, the Dinggeng site was a settlement of the Liangzhu Culture about 4,500 years ago. It covered an estimated five acres on the west bank of Taihu Lake. Since August 2022, archaeologists have excavated a little less than half an acre of it, uncovering multiple cultural layers. A total of 329 stone tools, 73 stone and bone arrowheads, 436 fishing net weights and numerous ceramic and jade objects.
The tiger axe is the most significant find among these artifacts. Both sides feature the same motifs in different arrangements. One side has a tiger at the top, clouds in the middle and flying birds on the bottom. The other side has the flying birds on top, tigers in the middle and clouds on the bottom. The figures are engraved in a fluid, single-line style with fine, smooth lines. Archaeologists believe they were carved with a hard, sharp stone tool.
The axe was found on a sacrificial platform. There are chips and areas of wear and tear, but they are minor. This was not a utilitarian tool. The iconography of the tiger suggests it may have been a symbol representing power.