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21 November 2003
700,000 year-old axe found in Britain

A man walking his dog along the coast of Norfolk, England, has found a stone axe which could change the human history of Europe by 200,000 years. Mike Chambers has been beachcombing for 10 years, and found the axe in clay below a cliff at low tide while walking between Yarmouth and Cromer.
     Experts are trying to confirm the age of the axe by examining the strata of the cliff. It is believed it was used for butchering large animals such as rhinoceros or lions. Approximately the size of a fist, it was worked to a point which is still sharp, having been protected by the clay.
     Mr Chambers gave the axe to Norwich Castle Museum, who have now lent it to the British Museum in London for the exhibition "Buried Treasure: Finding Our Past", a collaboration with other UK museums. The idea behind the exhibition is to show how chance discoveries - include those made by metal detector - have altered our understanding of history.
     Included in the exhibits will be the Iron Age gold jewellery found in Winchester, the Bronze Age gold cup from Ringlemere, Kent, Roman gold, and the Sutton Hoo helmet. But JD Hill, the British Museum's curator of European prehistory, believes the axe is the most important artefact on display: "If it is 700,000 years old, it really does put back the history of Europe by an extra 200,000 years. There are stunning objects in the exhibition, but this apparently insignificant piece is the most important thing."
     "Buried Treasure: Finding Our Past" runs from 21 November until 14 March, then tours the country.

Source: The Times (19 November 2003)

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