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A beautifully modelled stone axe

23 July 2013

Looking at a well made stone axe one can appreciate the work and time involved in its construction – even a well made flint projectile head is pleasing to the eye – and a good example straight out of the ground can make an archaeologist dance with joy as I witnessed a few weeks ago. The July/August 2013 issue of British Archaeology (now available at Smiths) has a picture of a stone axe head found by Dutch fishermen in the North Sea. It recounts that fishing boats have regularly turned up mammoth tusks, and bones of various animals, as well as Palaeolithic stone tools and even a fragment of a Neanderthal skull, these in general go back to the Pleistocene when the floor of the North Sea was dry land – all the way up to Norway and the Shetlands. The axe head was different it turned out (after being sent for analysis) as it was Mesolithic – and dated between 10,000 and 4,000BC (the early to mid Holocene). This was the first such stone implement to be definitely dated to the Mesolithic (or sent for analysis as no doubt such stone tools have been collected by fishermen since the year yonk). This confirms the reality of Dogger Land (once again) and can be added to a lot of other Mesolithic material made of bone and antler (such as barbed points for spear heads, or digging tools made of auroch bone). Dutch aggregate firms have been dredging the North Sea bed for years and although archaeology has an understanding with them this was not always so. Lots of things have undoubtedly been lost.

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