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Key Discovery Scoops Top Award

The discovery of the Stone Age Hand axes from the North Sea was awarded the Best Discovery Award in the prestigious British Archaeological Awards held at the British Museum on Monday.
The hand axes, described by Phil Harding as ‘massively important’, date back tens of thousands of years. They were used by Stone Age hunters at a time in the Ice Age when water was locked up in the ice caps and the North Sea was dry land. The axes were found in gravel that was dredged from the seabed near Yarmouth but landed in Holland.
Their discovery gives decisive proof for a submerged landscape that experts thought had been destroyed. It was thought that rising sea levels had swept away all traces of this Ice Age world. The discovery of the hand axes, announced earlier this year, surprised the experts and caught the public imagination around the world.
The international collaboration that ensured the axes were reported was acknowledged by the judges who awarded the prize jointly to Jan Meeulmeister, the amateur archaeologist and fossil hunter who identified the finds; the British Marine Aggregates Producers Association who run the scheme for reporting archaeological remains found in dredging for sand and gravel at sea; and Hanson Marine Aggregates Ltd who promptly stopped dredging in the area the finds came from. The judges also praised the collaboration between the Dutch and English government archaeology services.
Awarding the prize Alison Taylor said ‘The find was reported across the world on TV, radio and in newspapers, while the thousands of online hits demonstrate that this find really engaged with the public’s fascination with archaeology. Overall this was, and continues to be, an excellent archaeological project.’
Dr Antony Firth of Wessex Archaeology who run the reporting scheme for the British Marine Aggregates Association and who nominated the find commented ‘This award is thoroughly deserved. It recognises the vision of the industry in introducing and supporting this voluntary scheme. Having the scheme in place meant that the significance of the hand axes was recognised and action was taken internationally and promptly. As a result a find of crucial importance was saved.’