A stone found on the Worm's Head Causeway

I’m always looking at pebbles and beach stones but I wasn’t the one who first spotted this curiously shaped stone. My companion picked it up from where it lay in a shallow tide pool out on the Worm’s Head Causeway, which is at the end of the Gower Peninsula. It is a fairly symmetrical and flattened leaf-shape; and measures approximately 12 by 7 cm. It seems to be made of limestone – but I could be wrong about that.

One edge is smooth and rounded. The other is thinner and sharper. Overall, it is well worn and smoothed – it has been rolling around on the shore for a considerable time. The surface has evidence of both infesting and encrusting organisms. There are small burrows made by marine worms and also by sponges – I’m not sure what types they are. At the broad end is a larger hole that perforates the stone. It looks a lot like part of a tunnel that might have been bored by a bivalved mollusc such as a Flask Shell or a Wrinkled Rock Borer. Within the hole, small acorn barnacles have attached their plates. Over the flat surfaces of the stone are minute lace-like Sea Mats and the occasional calcareous tube made by a worm. The whole stone feels balanced and comfortable in the hand.

I’m quite excited about this stone because I think it might be an ancient hand axe! I’m going to send these pictures to experts at the National Museum of Wales for their opinion. Maybe you, the reader, knows something about this object and can tell me something about it. I have read that a really old Neanderthal flint axe was once found at Rhossili; and Palaeolithic stone axes have been recovered from some of the local caves. However, most of the axe heads discovered in this area have been Neolithic; and physical evidence for Neolithic occupation of the locality can still be easily seen in the megalithic chambered tombs – like Sweyne’s Howes on Rhossili Down.

If this piece of rock is not just an oddly shaped beach stone, and it is in fact an axe head, then its most curious feature of all must be the perforation. From a naturalist’s point of view, it seems most unlikely that a rock boring mollusc would have burrowed into such a thin section of rock as presented by a lost hand axe. That being so, it raises the possibility that the rock was chosen for making into a hand axe because it already had the hole in it. Microscopic examination of the inner surface of the hole, beneath the encrusting barnacles, could reveal whether the hole is naturally made by some organism or if it is man-made. Surely a most unusual phenomenon in ancient axe-making.

I’ll keep you posted about developments. Fingers crossed that it really is something special – but maybe it is only in my imagination.

Flat surface of a stone found on the Worm's Head Causeway

Flat surface of a stone found on the Worm's Head Causeway

Possible worked sharp edge to the strange beach stone

Possible worked sharp edge to the strange beach stone

Blunt, rounded edge to the odd beach stone

…….and where the stone was found:


All Rights Reserved

11 Replies to “A Curious Beach Stone”

  1. That’s fascinating! I would be very tempted to think that it was an axe head too. The only thing that might make me doubt it is the possibility that it’s limestone – did they make axe heads out of limestone or was it mainly flint? What a find. I will be very interested to hear the experts’ opinions!


  2. I’m not sure the stone is limestone. I know it isn’t flint. Flint is only one of a number of hard stones that have been recorded as material for axes. I’m not sure if limestone has ever been used. Of course, if the stone is an artefact but not an axe, it might have been made from a softer stone like limestone if it was some other purpose such as scraping skins or cutting meat rather than killing animals or chopping down trees. I have written to a specialist in stone tools and I await their opinion.


  3. I want to believe the object is special because to an amateur eye it looks that way. However, I am prepared to be disappointed. I know from when I used to work in a museum that people often brought objects in for identification believing they were one thing when the similarity was just a coincidence, and I had to let them down gently and explain that they were mistaken.


  4. Just an update on the stone. I have contacted a specialist in early archaeology and stone tools at the National Museum of Wales in Cardiff, I will be arranging to visit with the stone at the end of July. A geologist will also be on hand to examine the stone. I’ll let you know how I get on.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: