|21 September 2003
Prehistoric human figurine found in England
An insight on life 3,000 years ago has been provided by archaeological remains found at Hillfarrance (Somerset, England), including what is thought to be a carving of a human figure. Archaeologists, working on behalf of the Environment Agency to investigate the site of the new flood defence scheme, were surprised to find a pit at the boundary of what is thought to be a prehistoric field system.
They were even more taken aback when excavations of the pit revealed pieces of pottery, burned stoned and worked wood, including part of what may well be a human figurine. The figure, about 45cm long and 12cm in diameter, consists of a forked piece of oak, shaped with a bronze axe, marks of which are still visible on the wood. Only the lower limbs and torso of the model have survived the test of time - it was found with the legs driven into the base of the pit.
Professor Bryony Coles, a leading expert in the field of waterlogged discoveries, said: "At first sight it looks like nothing very much, but it may actually be the remains of a rare prehistoric wooden carving in a humanlike form. The Hillfarrance find, although incomplete, has a number of similarities to known human-like figures from prehistoric Europe and it seems very probable that it too was intended to be one. Its discovery is therefore one of the more important and exciting of recent finds, particularly as it was found in the course of a careful excavation and its context is well documented." Pottery from the pit has initially been dated to the late Bronze Age, 1200-700 BCE, and the finds are thought to provide clues to local customs at that time.
Steve Reed of Exeter Archaeology, which carried out excavations at the site, said: "There seems to be no practical reason for the deposition of these artefacts. The presence of the forked timber driven into the base of the pit, along with the placing of worked and burned wooden artefacts and scorched stones, is highly suggestive of ritual deposition."
Analysis of the waterlogged remains, including plants, pollen and insects, is now under way. It is hoped to provide information about the nature of the local environment thousands of years ago, including man's impact on it by activities such as deforestation, cattle grazing and the types of crops grown in the area. The figure is also being radiocarbon-dated by the University of Waikato in New Zealand. Conservation of the wooden remains is under way so they can go on public display in the future.
Sources: This is Exeter, Wellington Weekly News (17 September 2003)
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