Axes and hatchets for felling timber and working it into useful pieces of wood were indispensable to the first colonists. The felling axe, which has a long narrow blade, was used to chop down trees as it has a more elongated and rigid blade excellent for deep, gouging cuts. As the palisade walls of James Fort were built from upright logs, tools like this felling axe and broad axes were a necessary part of the colonial tool kit. The use of axes in association with military fortifications dates back to the era of Roman legions when the construction of forts far from the core of Rome aided in the expansion of the empire.
The palisade walls of James Fort were constructed quickly. After arrival at Jamestown on May 14th 1607, according to George Percy the trianglewise fort was completed on June 15th. John Smith wrote of the “extreme toil” of the task, which may partly account for the number of axes that archaeologists have found. A total of 11 felling axes have been excavated from the site, three of which have markings which associate them with specific, although currently unknown, makers.