Shepperton axeOxford Archaeology staff digging a waterhole during recent excavations in Surrey in preparation for gravel extraction made the exciting discovery of an early Iron Age socketed copper alloy axe, dating to between 800 and 600 BC.

The axe is of Sompting Type, variant Cardiff II. Axes of this form are large and heavy with very little splay to the blade. They are decorated with three, four or five ribs terminating in circular pellets on each face. This example, which is in particularly good condition, has five ribs with pellets.

The type occurs in the Midlands and as far north as Yorkshire and Cheshire, as well as in East Anglia, the Thames Valley and South Wales. Although most early Iron Age axes are recovered from hoards, the Cardiff Variant II is often found singly and often in wet locations, such as the Fen edges and rivers.

Ken Welsh of Oxford Archaeology said, "Such a fine example is unlikely to have been lost by accident as it would have been a very valuable object. Axes like this one are often found in watery places and it was probably deliberately placed in the waterhole, perhaps as an offering to the gods.