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Dredged up hand axes evidence of Ice Age hunting

North Sea bares rare artifacts

Tags: Excerpts from the Windmill

MIDDELBURG - An amateur Dutch archaeologist named Jan Meulmeester made a startling find which pleases scientists: an amazing collection of 28 flint hand-axes, dated by archaeologists to be ‘around 100,000 years-old.’ He found them in an area about 13km off Great Yarmouth.

Jan Meulmeester digs regularly for mammoth bones and fossils in marine sand and gravel, but nobody expected him to find something this significant. These are rated the finest hand axes ever to be found from the Ice Age and from the English waters.

Phil Harding of Wessex Archaeology and Channel 4’s Time Team program who has studied the Ice Age for a big part of his life, rates these finds as hugely massively important. According to Harding, in the Ice Age the cold conditions meant that water was locked up in the ice caps. The sea level was also lower then, so that some places which are now seabed was then dry land, says the British archeologist. The hand-axes would have been used by hunters in butchering the carcasses of animals like mammoths. Although their precise age remains unknown, Harding views these hand-axes as the single most important find of Ice Age material from below the North Sea.

The fact that mammoth teeth and bones were discovered along with the axes seems to support Harding’s ideas. The findings were made public by Wessex Archaeology. Maritime archeologist Ian Oxley points out that these exciting findings which will help researchers gain a greater understanding of the North Sea at a time when it was dry land. Archeologists already concluded earlier people had been living out there before Britain became an island, but sites actually showing real evidence of this are extremely hard to find.

Dutch fishing trawlers routinely haul up mammoth bones as well. At one time, an Ouddorp storekeeper owned a large collection of such artifacts.