A flint axe found in Co Waterford yesterday is to be examined to see if it is similar to one discovered in England 15 years ago which was dated as being about 700,000 years old.

The hand axe was found by fishermen at Creaden Head near Woodstown in east Waterford.

They have given it to a local historian, who is today bringing it to University College Cork for an initial examination.

The axe is believed to have a number of marks and indentations on it.

Historians will attempt to find out if they are similar to those found on a flint hand axe found 15 years ago on a beach in Norfolk, East Anglia.

That axe was subsequently dated to around 700,000 years ago, a discovery which signified that some form of humans may have been present in Britain 200,000 years earlier than had previously been known.

The area in Waterford where the axe was found was not widely glaciated during the last Ice Age, 20,000 years ago, but up to now no evidence exists of human activity in Ireland from or before that period. 

It may have been possible that humans did occupy the region, crossing via a wide land-bridge between Ireland and Cornwall that still existed at the time, but there has never been any physical proof.

If this axe proves to be one of the oldest, if not the oldest, implements ever discovered in Ireland, it could lead to a major breakthrough about when humans first lived here.