‘Prehistoric axe head’ found

NEOLITHIC AXE FIND. . . Ian Leith and Thomas Timoney, Templemore Archaeology Aerial Survey, pictured with an Neolithic stone axe head, found in the Creggan area this week. 2407JM50

NEOLITHIC AXE FIND. . . Ian Leith and Thomas Timoney, Templemore Archaeology Aerial Survey, pictured with an Neolithic stone axe head, found in the Creggan area this week. 2407JM50

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Local archaelogists say a 6,000 year old stone axe head has been discovered in the Creggan area of the city.

Ian Leitch, of Templemore Archaeology, believes the prehistoric artefact - which was discovered by a member of the public - dates from the Neolithic period: circa 4,000 BC.

Mr. Leitch says the axe was probably made by people who first introduced agriculture to the Foyle Valley some 6,000 years ago.

He believes it’s the first of its kind discovered in the Creggan area.

He revealed that the axe head was polished - a factor, he says, that points to its Neolitic origins.

“This is an important discovery and we’d like to praise the man who discovered it for reporting the find to us,” said Mr. Leitch.

In 2000, a major site dating from the same period was partially excavated in the Thornhill area of the city.

Mr. Leitch said this site - which is located in the grounds of the new Thornhill College - comprised more than 20 houses, fortifications, and thousands of artefacts - including stone axes, stone beads and arrow heads.

The site is now a scheduled monument protected from future excavation.

Thornhill was in the middle of major building works when the discovery was made.

Archaeologists believe the New Stone age settlement was possibly the site of Ireland’s first farming community.

The size of the settlement suggests that up to 50 people could have lived within it.

When news of the first find broke, Richard Warner, Keeper of Archaeology at the Ulster Museum in Belfast, said that it was an extremely exciting find and that it would provide significant new information about early settlements in the Foyle Valley.

The first people came to Ireland around 8000 BC. These were the Mesolithic, Middle Stone Age, people who were hunter-gatherers. They were replaced by the first farmers in Europe, the Neolithic, who first reached Ireland in about 4500 BC.