A 5,000-year-old boulder has been discovered in west Dorset.

A team of archaeologists has discovered an extremely rare and important stone artefact in the Valley of Stones National Nature Reserve near Portesham.

Bridport and Lyme Regis News: Valley of Stones in West DorsetValley of Stones in West Dorset (Image: Historic England Archive)

The "polishing boulder", known as polissoir has a glossy surface where it would have been used to polish axe heads - an essential tool for Stone Age communities.

The boulder is formed of Sarsen Stone, a particularly hard form of sandstone known as silcrete, which was used during the Neolithic period for building monuments such as Stonehenge.

Bridport and Lyme Regis News: Polissoir, or polishing boulder was used for make stone axe heads in Stone Age EnglandPolissoir, or polishing boulder was used for make stone axe heads in Stone Age England (Image: Historic England Archive)

The extremely rare discovery is only the second undisturbed polissoir ever to be found in its original position in England.

Bridport and Lyme Regis News: Valley of Stones in west DorsetValley of Stones in west Dorset (Image: Historic England Archive)

Further excavations of the area where the polissoir was found have been made through a collaboration between Part Participate CIC, Historic England and Natural England

Dr Anne Teather, Director at Past Participate, said: “This incredible discovery represents the research value that community heritage projects can bring.

"We are grateful for the Farming in Protected Landscapes scheme for funding that stimulated these investigations into the Valley of Stones, and Historic England and local landowners for their support.

"We hope to secure further funding that will enable us to continue our work in this landscape with our committed team of volunteers.”

Jim Rylatt, Director of Archaeology at Past Participate, said: “Finding a polissoir was a very unexpected outcome of our sarsen survey.

"These stones rarely survive, but would have been extremely important to Neolithic people, as without axes they could not have cleared woodland and farming would have been impossible.

"Our investigation of the polissoir will provide important insights into the use of this landscape almost 6000 years ago.”

Sasha Chapman, Inspector of Ancient Monuments at Historic England, said: “This is a hugely exciting and rare discovery in this little understood historic landscape, which is giving us an opportunity to explore the use of the stone, and the communities who were using it.

"Historic England has been pleased to support Past Participate who made the original discovery.

"Our scientists and Landscape Investigators are providing specialist expertise and advice to enable a better understanding and record of this unique site and its wider archaeological setting.”