Today’s Object of the Week is a prehistoric axe that has been on quite a journey .

AN object from pre-history discovered more than 100 years ago is now back in a North Yorkshire museum after several years of examination by academics.

In May 1910, Joseph Maughan of East Pastures, Skelton-in-Cleveland, found an axe embedded in dark coloured clay below the surface of the River Tees, whilst fishing at the Cauldron Snout beauty spot, in the North Pennines.

By June of that year, a chap named Ed Wooler of Darlington had already examined the stone and sent a report to the Newcastle Antiquarian Society with his assessment and conclusions.

He thought it was a prehistoric import of a jadeite axe, which can range in colour from yellow grey and white, to every shade of green.

There is a similar looking axe in the Pitt Rivers Museum, which displays the archaeological and anthropological collections of the University of Oxford.

Between 1910 and 1926, the object remained with Mr Maughan, after which he donated it to Whitby Museum. It was labelled and displayed in the then customary way.

The Northern Echo: This is how the axe was originally displayed in Whitby MuseumThis is how the axe was originally displayed in Whitby Museum

In 1965, the axe was re-examined by an expert named W Campbell Smith, of the Natural History Museum in London.

He concluded that it was, in fact, not jade but an altered chert or flint, being porous with a white, powdery surface.

Despite it no longer being a rare import but of a likely regional limestone, the axe was still of interest and was loaned to Durham Archaeology Museum in the 1980s.

It remained there for several years and was seemingly forgotten.

Though the committee minutes recorded the loan, there was no other paperwork, no computer catalogue and no registrar then.

Durham University got in touch with Whitby Museum in 2013 asking if it would gift the axe to them, extend the loan, or if it should be returned.

The loan was extended in 2014 for another five years, but in November last year Durham University confirmed that they wanted to return it.

It is now back in Whitby Museum after its lengthy sabbatical.

Christiane Kroebel, curator of the Whitby Abbey section of the museum’s archaeology collection said: “I hope it will be displayed again, even though its relevance to Whitby as an axe is low but its 20th century story is curious.

“The picture here is of the original box, with the new box in which Durham returned the axe with their label – an object itself of interest for social history.”

l Whitby Museum and Pannett Art Gallery, in Pannett Park, Whitby, are presently closed during the lockdown. Planned maintenance work will be carried out during the closure period. Pannett Art Gallery will also be closed during the same period.