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5,500-year-old complete hand axe unearthed in prehistoric seabed in Denmark

5,500-year-old complete hand axe unearthed in prehistoric seabed in Denmark


Archaeologists from the Museum Lolland-Falster in Denmark made an extremely rare discovery when they unearthed a complete hand axe with handle still attached in what was once a seabed in prehistoric times. The 5,500-year-old artifact was found in what has been described as a ‘ritual hot bed’, in which a series of tools and other artifacts had been purposely placed vertically in the earth. 

Excavations just east of Rødbyhavn have been underway ahead of the construction of the Femern Belt Fixed Link, an 18km tunnel between Scandinavia and Germany. The dig site has already yielded some incredible finds, including 5,000-year-old footprints, which were found in close proximity to river barriers for fishing. Archaeologists believe the prints were left by fishermen who waded out into the silted seabed to tend to the barriers.

Stone Age footprints discovered near Rødbyhavn in Denmark

Stone Age footprints discovered near Rødbyhavn in Denmark. Credit: Museum Lolland-Falster.

Archaeologists also found an oar, two bows, and fourteen axe shafts, but were stunned to come across a complete narrow-necked flint axe in almost perfect condition. The artifacts had been preserved as a result of the unique conditions of the silted seabed, enabling even organic material to remain intact.

”To find such a well-preserved shafted axe is incredible,” Søren Anker Sørensen, an archaeologist with Museum Lolland-Falster, said in a press release made by the Museum Lolland-Falster.

The archaeological team believe that the dig area must have had a ritual significance because the axe and other items had been intentionally placed into the earth standing up vertically. Evidence of burial customs and sacrificial rituals during the Neolithic period are not uncommon in areas of marshes and wetlands in Scandinavia.

Excavations are continuing and researchers expect to find many more artifacts that they hope will shed more light on the ritual practices conducted by the ancient inhabitants of Scandinavia.

A video (in Danish) showing archaeologists working on the dig site, and featuring the discovery of the ancient footprints can be viewed below:

Featured image: The newly-discovered complete hand axe. Credit: Museum Lolland-Falster

By April Holloway



well, a little out of my depth, but thinking Denmark and that one would want a harder as opposed to softer wood for that sort of use,... it might possibly be beech. Whatever it is, those were plenty wet summers when it was growing--- the 'years' shown there aren't as many as I would choose for an axe handle if I had a choice in the matter.

I agree Jared, the preservation of the wood is magnificent! Is there any idea yet on what kind of wood it is?

Wood grain on that is amazing! I just can't stop looking at that picture. I can't wait to see some of the other artifacts coming out of there.

Video is in Danish not Dutch:-)

aprilholloway's picture


April Holloway is a Co-Owner, Editor and Writer of Ancient Origins. For privacy reasons, she has previously written on Ancient Origins under the pen name April Holloway, but is now choosing to use her real name, Joanna Gillan.

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