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Rediscovered - a hand axe that challenged Creationism in 1859

By Julian Worker     May 27, 2009 in Science
A flint axe that challenged creationist history six months before The Origin of Species was published has been tracked down in the stores of the Natural History Museum in London, UK. It had been missing for 150 years.
On 26th May 1859, a stone hand axe from a quarry at St Acheul near Amiens in France was presented at a lecture at the Royal Society in London, England.
Neither the amateur archaeologist John Evans nor the geologist Joseph Prestwich, who found the hand axe, knew its true age, only that it was around 400,000 years old. The bones of woolly mammoths and rhinos were found in the same geological layer at the quarry. This fact challenged the prevailing creationist history of the time, which was based on the assertion of Archbishop Ussher that God created the Universe in 4004 BC. Six months later Charles Darwin published a certain book that challenged Creationism even further.
A month later, the axe was shown at another lecture at the Society of Antiquaries. Then the axe vanished for 150 years.
The story behind the eventual rediscovery of the artifact will be published in the June edition of the Antiquity journal by the team who tracked down the axe, Clive Gamble, a professor at Royal Holloway College in London, and Robert Kruszynski of the Natural History Museum in South Kensington.
The duo hunted through thousands of prehistoric stone tools in national collections before Kruszynski found the axe at the Natural History Museum complete with Victorian label recording the date and quarry where it was found. There was even a photograph of the original discovery of the axe with a quarryman pointing to it as it still lay half-buried in gravel.
The axe will make only its third public appearance since its discovery when Gamble and Kruszynski take it to a Society of Antiquaries lecture in June.
More about Axe, Charles Darwin, Creationism, Archbishop ussher, Natural history museum
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