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Last Updated: Friday, 12 March, 2004, 03:09 GMT
Sparks fly over rare axe head
Axe head
The axe head was found in a field last year
A Fife man who discovered a rare Neolithic axe head while out walking near his home is facing prosecution for refusing to hand it over.

Under Scots Law such finds are Crown property but until now it is not thought anyone has faced court action.

Michael Kelly discovered the 6,500-year-old axe head, one of only 30 in the UK, in a field last year.

Mr Kelly, from Leslie, has been told that court proceedings will follow if he does not hand over the artefact.

The former film stunt man said he discovered the axe head while scouting locations for a movie script he is working on.

"I didn't know it was an axe to start with, I just thought it was a fancy stone," he said.

"I picked it up and took it to the archaeologist and he told me it was 6,500 years old."

'Extremely exciting'

Mr Kelly initially thought his discovery would help him fund his film project - but he was wrong.

Fife Council's archaeologist Douglas Speirs said that under Scots law such finds were claimed by the Crown.

The items were usually then given to a local museum or, in the case of finds of high importance, to the national museums.

"This is a system which benefits everybody," said Mr Speirs.

Michael Kelly
I didn't ask to find it, I didn't steal it from anybody
Michael Kelly
"It enables the shared cultural importance of Scotland to be shared and enjoyed by everybody."

The axe head is known to have been made at Killin on Loch Tay.

Mr Speirs said it was an "extremely exciting" find and that its real value was in its story.

"It adds to our knowledge of the number of axes produced at that site and it adds to our knowledge of how widely these things were circulated.

"In archaeological terms this is a significant find," he said.

The Crown has told Mr Kelly that he must hand over the axe head or face prosecution.

The deadline has now passed, but he said he would not budge.

He usually keeps the axe buried in a secret location and warned that he may even leave it there.

"At the end of the day I didn't ask to find it, I didn't steal it from anybody," he said.

BBC Scotland's Alan Grant
"The stand-off has now come to a head"

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