ARCHAEOLOGISTS have hailed the remarkable find of 5,000 year-old working tools that shed new light on the craftmanship skills of Neolithic man.

A large number of stone axes are among more than 30,000 pieces of pottery, bones and tools found so far at a 5,000-year-old site in Orkney.

The Ness of Brodgar is one of the largest and most important Neolithic excavations in Northern Europe and two of the polished stone axes show damage from use.

One of the tools has been described as an “object of beauty” by the University of the Highlands and Islands team. The axe, found by archaeology student Therese McCormick, “astonished” archaeologists at the site through its “sheer quality of workmanship”.

The Gneiss stone had been chosen so that the natural coloured banding was reflected in the shape of the item and then expertly worked and polished, said UHI.

Site director Nick Card: “This axe again tells us a little more about the life of the Neolithic people who built this place. There is, in common with the large axe discovered earlier, a great deal of edge damage suggesting that this axe was used extensively as a working tool, but interestingly one of the edges has been re-worked to create a new edge and also both sides are covered in peck marks suggesting that it was also re-used perhaps as a mini anvil.”

The first of the two recently-discovered axes was uncovered in a new trench dug on the shore of Loch of Stenness last week.

The object was the largest axe so far discovered on site and had been heavily used and damaged at the cutting edge.

Mr Card said: “It is nice to find pristine examples of stone axes, but the damage on this one tells us a little bit more about the history of this particular axe. The fact that the cutting edge had been heavily damaged suggests that it was a working tool rather than a ceremonial object.

“We know that the buildings in the complex were roofed by stone slabs so this axe was perhaps used to cut and fashion the timber joists that held up the heavy roof.”

The Ness of Brodgar is an excavation covering an area in the Neolithic Orkney World Heritage Site.

It is described as a sophisticated complex of monumental stone buildings, enclosed by walls up to six metres thick, and was occupied by people more than 5,000 years ago.