Neanderthal 'treasure trove' discovered on sea bed off East Anglian coast

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London, March 10 : Archaeologists have discovered 28 Neanderthal flint axes on the sea bed off the East Anglian coast, which date back to at least 50,000 - 60,000 years ago.

The axes - one of the largest groups ever found - were spotted by an amateur archaeologist when a consignment of North Sea gravel arrived at the Dutch port of Flushing.

The cache was found 8 miles off Great Yarmouth and is the most northerly point in the North Sea that Neanderthal tools have been discovered.

According to a report in the Independent, they were found with other flint artefacts, a large number of mammoth bones, teeth and tusk fragments, and pieces of deer antler on the sea bed, which was probably a Neanderthal hunters' kill site or temporary camp site.

"The quality and quantity of material from the North Sea shows what a rich resource it is for helping to reconstruct missing phases of our prehistory. The evidence should be preserved and studied," said Professor Chris Stringer, Research Leader in Human Origins at the Natural History Museum.

Detailed archaeological research at the bottom of the North Sea would be likely to solve a host of Stone Age mysteries.

It should help establish when Britain was recolonised by humans after a 100,000-year uninhabited period.

It may also reveal for the first time the full technological capabilities of Neanderthal Man, because preservation on and in the sea bed is extremely good. Wooden, stone and bone implements have almost certainly survived.

In the southern North Sea, Dutch prehistorians working alongside North Sea fishermen over the past decade have identified about 100 Neanderthal flint axes, 200 later Stone Age bone, antler and flint artefacts made by anatomically modern humans, and the remains of thousands of mammoths, woolly rhinos and other ice-age mammals.

It had been feared that the ice sheets that destroyed most pre-ice age British landscapes had done the same to the land surfaces that existed where the North Sea is now.

But archaeologists now suspect that some Neanderthal landscapes have survived under the North Sea. What's more, they are now certain that hundreds or even thousands of square miles of post-ice age prehistoric landscapes do survive there.

ANI

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