The stone axe from 400,000 years ago which has been described as "the most important stone tool in the establishment of the geological antiquity of humankind" was mislaid for many years. It has been rediscovered thanks to the efforts of Professor Clive Gamble, an archaeologist in the Department of Geography at Royal Holloway, University of London.
On 27 April 1859, seven months before Darwin published his ‘Origin of species’, a momentous discovery was made in a gravel pit outside Amiens in northern France. Two English businessmen, Joseph Prestwich and John Evans, whose interests were respectively in geology and archaeology, had come there to find the evidence that would prove the great antiquity of humans. What they discovered was to dispel the long held Biblical view which put a timescale on the whole of Creation of only 6000 years.
This vital stone implement was exhibited in 1859 at the Royal Society and the Society of Antiquaries of London along with the photograph of its discovery – the oldest photographic record of an archaeological discovery anywhere. But it was then lost to history, never displayed or even illustrated in a scientific journal.Professor Gamble, wanting to celebrate the 2009 anniversary of the 27 April 1859 discovery of the axe, contacted various museums in an effort to locate the artifact. His enquiry to London's Natural History Museum paid off. Robert Kruszynski, the museum's curator of the paleontology department, searched through the museums' collection of stone tools and found the axe.
In a conference to be held 2 June 2009 at the Society of Antiquaries, Burlington House Piccadilly, London, the story of the original discovery and the rediscovery of the axe will be told.
Source:Royal Holloway, University of London