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3 September 2003
9,000 year-old stone axe found in Northern Ireland

A large stone axe has been discovered buried in a garden at Culmore, Derry, in Northern Ireland. The axe was uncovered when Hugh Gillespie was digging the foundations for a garden wall, but he didn't realise it's significance until his son, Frank Gillespie, noticed that it had been worked.
     Local archaeologists Ian Leitch and Tommy Gallagher were brought in, and dated the axe to the early or late Mesolithic period, around eight or nine thousand years ago. Although several stone axes have been found in the area in recent years, the Culmore axe is apparently unique. Made of "mud stone", it is larger than other local axes, and comes from the period when the earliest settlers in Ireland were still arriving from Scotland.
    "This particular stone axe may have been brought into the area through local trading, as this stone axe has no similarity, on record, to other stone axes, which have been found in the locality," said Mr. Leitch.
     The axe is now with the Environment and Heritage Services of the Department of the Environment for recording, but will be returned to the Gillespies, who may allow it to go on display at the Tower Museum in Derry at some point.
    In January, more evidence of the first Irish settlers was found during the building of the Toome bypass, near Lough Neagh. A range of flint tools dating to the same period as the Culmore axe were found, including 8,000 pieces of flint, microliths as well as larger tools.

Source: icderry.icnetwork.co.uk (29 August 2003)

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