Axes, hatchets, and other woodworking tools are found in many of the features of James Fort. While different types of axes can technically be used interchangeably, it is notable that different types were brought to Jamestown and intended for different purposes. Not only was wood necessary for shelter and to provide fires to cook over or for warmth, but the Virginia Company of London hoped that timber would become a major export from the newly-established Virginia colony.
While a felling axe would be used to chop down a tree, a broad axe, with its large flaring blade is indispensable for hewing, the process of debarking and squaring timbers for construction pieces. A total of five broad axes have been found at James Fort, three of which were excavated from early fort period features. This suggests that they were used to cut and prepare wood in the initial construction of the fort’s palisade walls and the first mud and stud structures on site such as the barracks. One broad axe was found discarded in the Smithfield well (built c. 1617 and filled in during the 1620s), highlighting that these tools were always needed and were used even after the initial construction years of the settlement.