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Archaeologists Discover 5,000-Year-Old Rock Used For Tool Sharpening

‌The natural boulder known as a polissoir has a dished shiny surface that was used to polish stone axe heads.‌

A glossy “polishing” stone used 5,000 years ago to sharpen tools to be used in farming and building monuments like Stonehenge has been found. 

The natural boulder known as a polissoir has a dished shiny surface where it was used to polish stone axe heads.

The extremely rare artifact is similar to the type that would have been used to help build the world-famous heritage site Stonehenge in Wiltshire, England.

Community archeology group EuCAN Dorset made the discovery during a survey in West Dorset, nearby the “Valley of Stones” – an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

The group was being assisted by Past Participate – a Dorset based archaeology and community-led research project.

The polishing boulder is only the second undisturbed polissoir ever discovered in its original position in England.

Volunteers from Dorset EuCAN working with Natural England initially made the discovery, which was later confirmed by Past Participate.

The organizations say that the discovery is an “excellent example” of how community groups can collaborate to make new historic discoveries.

Dr. Hayley Roberts, Jim Rylatt and Dr. Anne Teather of Past Participate CIC with the ‘polishing boulder’, known as a polissoir. Community archeology group EuCAN Dorset with assistance from Past Participate, discovered the polissoir during a survey in West Dorset, nearby the “Valley of Stones”. HISTORIC ENGLAND ARCHIVE/ SWNS.

Dr. Anne Teather, Director at Past Participate, said: “This incredible discovery represents the research value that community heritage projects can bring.

“We are grateful for the Farming in Protected Landscapes scheme for funding that stimulated these investigations into the Valley of Stones, and Historic England and local landowners for their support.”

“We hope to secure further funding that will enable us to continue our work in this landscape with our committed team of volunteers.”

Stone axes were essential tools for the early farming people of the Neolithic to clear woodland and build houses and monuments, and axes were made of various raw materials such as flint, volcanic tuff and granite.

There is evidence that many of these stone axes traveled widely in prehistoric times, either due to trade or the migration of their owners.

The tools were vital for felling trees and working with timber. The stone axe heads would have been attached to a wooden handle, but this part of the tool very rarely survives due to decomposition.

Tom Munro, Dorset AONB Manager, said: “We are delighted to have been able to support Past Participate’s work in this area through the Farming in Protected Landscapes Fund which has led to this remarkable find.

Earthfast Polissoir. The boulder known as polissoir has a dished shiny surface which was used to polish stone axe heads. JAMES D/ HISTORIC ENGLAND ARCHIVE/ SWNS

“It’s a reminder of the time depth of this nationally important landscape, and how human activity has shaped it for thousands of years.

“It’s also a story about the connections between people, past and present, and the value of communities engaging with these very special landscapes.”

Sasha Chapman, Inspector of Ancient Monuments at Historic England, says that the discovery is ‘hugely exciting’ and will help improve understanding of the era.

She said: “This is a hugely exciting and rare discovery in this little-understood historic landscape, which is giving us an opportunity to explore the use of the stone, and the communities who were using it.

“Historic England has been pleased to support Past Participate who made the original discovery.

“Our scientists and Landscape Investigators are providing specialist expertise and advice to enable a better understanding and record of this unique site and its wider archaeological setting.”

Produced in association with SWNS Talker

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