Flint axe found off Waterford could be oldest Irish artefact

Tests to be carried out to see if object found by fisherman is hundreds of thousands of years old

Tests are to be carried out in the coming weeks to establish if a flint axe found by fishermen along the Waterford coast is hundreds of thousands of years old and one of the oldest artefacts ever found in the State.

The axe was found some months ago by a group of fishermen who were trawling for scallops off Creaden Head near Woodstown in Co Waterford.

They gave it to the Waterford History Group, which has arranged to have it time-tested in University College Cork.

However, local historians have already pointed out similarities between the flint axe and one found in 2001 in Norfolk, which turned out to be about 700,000 years old.


“That was a game-changer over there because they had to re-write the history books in the UK,” Vincent O’Brien of the Waterford History Group said.

The Waterford axe “proves that there was a tribe of people here in Ireland over a million years ago, and possibly more,” Mr O’Brien said.

The find is of “significant national and international importance,” he said, as the axe could be one of the oldest of its kind ever found in Europe and could be the oldest artefact of any kind discovered in Ireland.

Historian Noel McDonagh, who has been studying flint long-gone eras for some time, said he doesn’t want to make any predictions until the test results are known but is “happy enough that it’s something very, very unusual”.

If the markings on the axe are authenticated as being as old as that of the Norfolk axe, “it would re-write the whole history of early Ireland,” Mr McDonagh said. “I’d have a lot of flint from the mesolithic and neolithic periods but I’ve never seen anything like this before.”