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Last Updated: Wednesday, 27 October, 2004, 12:08 GMT 13:08 UK
Pre-Neanderthal axehead is found
Drawing of the axehead
The axehead is thought to date from pre-Neanderthal times
A flint axehead found on a north Essex beach, which dates back to 400,000 to 200,000 BC, has been hailed as a "spectacular discovery" by experts.

Found by a tourist on Mersea Island, it was taken to Colchester when he became curious as to its age.

The item is one of a number of items documented for the nation by the Portable Antiquities Scheme.

Caroline McDonald, the county's finds liaison officer, said it is the oldest find under the scheme in Essex.

She said: "It represents human activity in the Mersea Island area before we were even modern humans - not even 'human' as we know it now.

"This is a time before the Neanderthals, and it's such an old find.

"It's great that we've got a record of our earliest ancestors on what was to become the Essex coast recorded for the public and for future generations."

Nearly 50,000 items were logged across the UK under the Portable Antiquities Scheme last year.

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