A MYSTERIOUS Bronze Age axe blade unearthed near Sutton has left experts at the British Museum speculating about why its owners were trying to destroy it.

The blade contains a fragment of a sword, also dating from 1950-1750BC, that had been thrust into the axe to make it unusable.

And historians are split over why it was deliberately destroyed and left near a river.

One theory is that the axe – a valuable possession in Bronze Age society – was destroyed and left by the water as a form of sacrifice to a God.

Another idea is that the owner would have been ordered to destroy it in order to maintain a degree of economic parity within the group; the wealthy were forced to discard or destroy possessions to ensure no one person became too rich or too powerful.

This came as a surprise to Jason Morris, from Hereford, who found the artifact.

“I thought it had just been damaged in battle,” he said.

Mr Morris, who found the axe using a metal detector, is an avid collector, taking up the hobby when he was diagnosed with cancer several years ago.

He now has “bucketloads” of old coins as well as Roman centurion’s sun dial; however this ranks among his most intriguing finds.

“It came out of the ground just like that.

“I had no idea what it was, but I kept them for a couple of months and eventually I found out what it was on the internet.

“It’s crazy – no-one has touched that in 3,000 years, and I have just dug it up.”

Having been identified by Ludlow Museum as prehistoric, the axe and sword fragment were sent to the British Museum for authentication.

The piece will now be available for local museums to purchase, with Mr Morris and the land owner both set to receive a percentage of the sell-on price which could be anything from £50 to thousands.

Bronze Age finds are rare in Herefordshire, coming before inquests under the Treasure Act just once or twice a year.

However the Marches area was a significant stronghold during the era, with henges built in Herefordshire at Clifford, Whitney-on-Wye and Madley.