Home Arts Britain’s oldest piece of carved wood discovered in peat layer

Britain’s oldest piece of carved wood discovered in peat layer

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A chunk of oak tree, preserved and stained black by its millennia in a layer of Berkshire peat, has been revealed as Britain’s oldest piece of carved wood, dated to over 6,000 years ago, which makes it 2,000 years older than Stonehenge.

The meter-long piece of wood, with enigmatic carvings that have been compared to designs on ancient pottery, was found by chance at a building site in the village of Boxford in Berkshire. It has now been dated by experts from historic England, with scientists from the Nottingham Tree Ring Dating Laboratory and the Isotope Research Center at the University of Groningen, to between 4640BC and 4605BC , making it 500 years older than the only other known example of decoratively carved wood from the Late Mesolithic, found near Maerdy in Wales.

The scientists used a combination of radiocarbon dating and tree-ring dating of a slice of wood, which together give a 95% probability of the date.

Site owner Derek Fawcett, a retired surgeon who spotted the timber at the bottom of a foundation trench while builders were working on a new outbuilding on his land four years ago, described the find as ” rather surprising.” He has worked with Historic England and a local history project since the discovery four years ago, and donates it to the West Berkshire Museum once conservation work is complete. There are also plans to display the sculpture on temporary loan at the village heritage centre. Many archaeological finds from the Bronze Age to Roman and Saxon times have been made in the vicinity of the village on the banks of the River Lambourn, including a spectacular Roman mosaic floor discovered in 2017.

The wood was found in a waterlogged layer, 1.5 meters below the current ground level. Fawcett, who immediately contacted county archaeologist Sarah Orr, said: “It was clearly very old and looked well preserved in the peat. After watering it we saw it had marks that looked unnatural. and possibly artificial.

The donation is announced to mark Museums Week, June 5-11. Janine Fox, the West Berkshire Museum’s curator, described it as “a brilliant find”, which they will be delighted to display. “Deeper study may reveal more about the markings on the oak tree and its context, but its discovery gives us perspective on West Berkshire’s long and rich heritage, and a tangible connection to the humans who lived in this area long before. towns and villages be created. created.”

Experts in the history of England compare the carved marks to the decoration of early Neolithic pottery – and with the eye of faith, to the marks representing body decoration on the idol of Shigir, found in the Ural Mountains in Russia, and at 12,500 years old, the oldest known coin. of carved wood in the world.

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