Washington, March 18 : An amateur archaeologist has found an unprecedented collection of Stone Age hand axes, among material collected at the bottom of the North Sea, which possibly date back to 100,000 years.
According to a report in National Geographic News, Jan Meulmeester of the Netherlands found 28 axes in marine sand and gravel scooped up by a British construction materials supplier.
Meulmeester, a Dutch hobbyist, uncovered the axes by combing though a pile of sand and gravel on a wharf at Flushing, in southwest Netherlands.
He also found fragments of bones, teeth, tusks, and antlers from mammoths and other animals that had likely been butchered with the utensils.
Hanson, the British company that dug up the materials, had dumped them there after dredging the seafloor.
During ice-age periods of the Paleolithic era, which ended about 10,000 years ago, sea levels were lower and the North Sea was grassland hunting grounds.
The discovery of the axes proves that artifacts from that ancient period remain exceptionally well preserved below the seafloor, experts said.
According to Harding of Wessex Archaeology, the axes appear to come from a camp or settlement where humans butchered their prey.
"These axes are absolutely immaculate. They are as crisp as the day they were used," he said.
"Though proof of North Sea settlements has been scant so far, the recent find removes any doubt that such well-preserved sites do exist-and suggests that more could one day be found," Harding added.
"The condition of the material is such that is evident that it really comes from one single spot," said Hans Peeters, an archaeologist with the National Service for Archaeology (RACM) in Amersfoort, Netherlands.
"We are dealing with large swaths of ancient landscapes which have been preserved in certain areas of the North Sea," he added.
According to Peeters, "You can hardly find anything more convincing than this. Materials left behind were quickly covered with peat and clay, so you have perfect preservation of organic materials."
The information that could yet emerge from further detailed study of the find would be relevant.
Harding said that studying the mammoth bones and determining the species and the animals' state of health, as well as look for pollen or beetle remains and soil samples, would be important.
"Things like that contain so much evidence that it ceases to be just a stone tool, and begins to tell you what that world was like and what humans were doing," said Harding.