A prominent Irish archaeologist has called on the government to establish a ‘rescue unit’ after an axe aged 6,000 to 7,000 years old and other artefacts were washed up by the recent Atlantic seaboard storms.

Michael Gibbons wants the Irish state to immediately harvest the historical items unearthed by the New Year storms all along the Western coast.

He spoke as archaeologists identified yet more historic material thrown up by the storms according to the Irish Times newspaper.

These include a pink granite quern, or hand mill, estimated to be several thousand years old; several Mesolithic stone axes; a late medieval harbour; and early Christian burial grounds.

The paper reports that volume of artefacts thrown up by the extreme weather has prompted archaeologist Gibbons to call for State funding for a ‘rescue unit’ to ensure valuable heritage is not lost.

Galway city heritage officer Dr Jim Higgins recently discovered two stone axes on the shoreline which brings to six the number of reported Mesolithic finds on the Connemara coast.

Dr Higgins told the paper that he found one of the two axes on Ballyloughane beach in inner Galway Bay where few such prehistoric finds have been reported before.

A second axe located at Barna is believed to be 6,000-7,000 years old.

Gibbons has described Dr Higgins’s discoveries as ‘one of the biggest collection of prehistoric artefacts ever found on the west of Ireland’.

The pink granite quern was found on a prehistoric settlement west of Roundstone which included a large midden or ancient shell heap and a stone enclosure.

The quern is believed to be between 4,000 and 6,000 years old.

The paper adds that evidence of a late medieval harbour beneath Doon Hill, along with a possible wreck site, are also now visible at low tide.

The January storms also unveiled the remains of an 18th/19th-century village west of Cleggan where a local landowner has reported a children’s burial ground marked by white quartz stones close by.

Gibbons told the Irish Times that the finds and the evidence of damage exposed the ‘under-funding’ of existing heritage services and the need to establish a ‘rescue fund’ which might save very valuable archaeological material.

He said a priority would be the harbour edge buildings and midden identified recently on Inishbofin island which are beginning to degrade rapidly.

He added: “In the absence of any available resources to carry out further work on these newly revealed sites, I will continue to document them photographically and, where possible, will take small samples from the collapsed deposits for dating purposes down the road.

“There is a great deal of interest in what the storms have revealed."