ANCIENT bones of a red deer have been discovered as workers on the Mersey Gateway bridge excavated part of the Mersey estuary.

The animal remains are thought to have been deposited in the silt at the base of the River Mersey more than 5,000 years ago and have been sent to a laboratory for further tests and to be carbon dated.

The bones were uncovered at an area of the saltmarsh on the Widnes side of the estuary.

They were found close to where timbers from the Late Mesolithic period were discovered last summer.

Archaeologists believe the bones are most likely to have come from a single red deer.

Victoria Pollard, environment manager for bridge builders Merseylink, said: “A small quantity of vertebrate remains were recovered during the excavation of two bridge piers on the northern saltmarsh.

“The vertebrate remains were all of red deer and comprised four bones – metacarpal, metatarsal, radius and tibia – and a single fragment of a naturally-shed antler, indicating a large adult male deer.”

Ms Pollard added that all of the bones may be from a single animal because they showed a similar degree of preservation.

“As the bones were found close to timbers from the Late Mesolithic period it is assumed they are of a similar age, around 3,000 years BC,” she said.