An ancient weapon used more than 5,000 years ago has been found in an eroded footpath. 

Local Stephen Hamer was walking with a group of friends in May this year in the Rivington area when he spotted a stone which stood out. 

Stephen, or Ste, took it back to Horwich Heritage, with members of the group agreeing that it looked unusual. 

Derek Cartwright, secretary of Horwich Heritage, said: "The stone was heavier than similar sized other stones in the locality, it could have even been some type of metal.

"One end of the stone appeared to have a chiselled finish while the opposite end was flat.

"The stone appeared also to have some symmetry about its shape and was coated with something that looked like rust. 

The neolithic axe head which was foundThe neolithic axe head which was found (Image: Horwich Heritage)

"This is an incredible find and such a rare piece, well done Ste.

"We are very grateful also to Ian Trumble for his identification and description of the find and his continued support to Horwich Heritage."

The group agreed to show it to Ian Trumble, the chair of the Bolton Archaeological and Egyptology Society and also curator at Bolton Museum. 

After examining the piece, he found that the stone was a neolithic axe head, and would have been around 5,000 years old. 

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Ian said: "The axe is likely made from Langdale Tuff (from a site in the Lake District), though the shape of the axe is not a shape commonly found in the British Isles.

"It resembles the form of Neolithic axes found in Scandinavia, which are more box shaped and have sharp angled sides.

"This makes this piece even more interesting to archaeologists, as it shows possible interaction between Neolithic groups in the North West of England and Scandinavia, either through trade or travel.

The axe headThe axe head (Image: Horwich Heritage)

"Either the people in the area had encountered Scandinavian designs and were then reproducing them in the local material, or Scandinavian people had settled in the area and were continuing to make their traditional styles but in the locally available stone.

"It dates to the end of the Neolithic around 5000 years ago." 

The axe can be seen, alongside other locally found stone axes of a similar age loaned by Bolton Museum, at Horwich Heritage's "Horwich Timeline Exhibition". 

A similar shaped axe, thought to be Scandinavian, was found during the 1940s in "Tigers Clough", Horwich, a little more than a mile from the location of Ste’s find. 

Ste said: "I`m really happy that the axe adds to our local history. It was a lucky find, no digging required it was just there at the side of a path.

"I just hope it inspires other people to go and have a look around our beautiful countryside enjoying the views, but always watch where you are walking."