Thanks to all for your thoughts. To answer Chris, because of the lignum
head it's got to weigh close to 20 lbs., but I'm not great at estimating.
The "maul" vs. "mold" on the tag is a possibility.
But....I think I may have an answer to my own question. Actually, SWMBO
came up with the fact on-line that a new telephone pole is supposed to have
a 6" ring of compressed soil around the outside of the pole in the ground.
If you plug "telephone lineman tamper" into Google, the first image you
get is one of these suckers along with a junior example. The auction image
is of a maple version of the tool. My lignum one has to be half again as
heavy. Given the fact that lignum was probably always pretty expensive and
uncommon I'm guessing it's a pretty early example of this tool. Pretty sure
the current technique doesn't use these guys! Now....how to convince my
long suffering wife that it should have a place of honor in the house?