A 4,000-year-old gold ornament has been uncovered by Cumbrian schoolboys during an archaeological dig.

The children, from Alston Primary School, were taking part in an excavation at Kirkhaugh in the north Pennines when they saw a glint of gold in the soil.

The decorated object, which was found in a burial mound, is believed to be a hair tress from around 2,300 BC.

One of the boys, Joseph Bell, aged seven, admitted ‘dancing with joy’ when he saw the glinting gold.

Experts have dated the ornament, which is 1.3in (33mm) long, to the Copper Age. It was found alongside three flint arrowheads and a jet button.

Eight-year-old Luca Alderson, said: "When I first saw it I felt happy but I thought it was plastic. When I found out it was gold, I was very happy."

This find is believed to be connected to a matching object found at Kirkhaugh during an excavation in 1935.

The dig was arranged by the North Pennines Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty as part of an archaeology project.

Paul Frodsham, who led the project, said: "All archaeological sites are important in their own way, but this is exceptional.

"It can be regarded as marking the very start of mineral exploitation in the North Pennines, leading in due course to Roman exploitation of lead and silver, and eventually to the vast post-medieval lead industry for which the region is internationally famous."

After being analysed by specialists, it is hoped the head tress will be reunited with the one found in 1935 which is housed at the Great North Museum in Newcastle.