5,000-Year-Old Sculpture Unearthed in Britain


| LAST UPDATE 02/18/2022

By Stanley Wickens
folkton drum historical discovery
Victoria Jones - PA Images / Contributor via Getty Images

An ancient chalk drum has recently been discovered by British archaeologists in East Yorkshire. From the historical significance of its age to the cultural meaning of its design, the artifact is quite an exceptional discovery. Here's why.

The sculpture is estimated to be 5,000 years old, dating back to the Stonehenge era. It is the fourth of its kind, similar to three other chalk drums unearthed in North Yorkshire in 1889, called "Folkton drums." These sculptures are artifacts from the Neolithic period, and their function remains a mystery to archaeologists today. The latest drum to be found was discovered in a grave, along with the remains of three children. Two of the children appeared to have been holding hands at the time of their burial. Archaeologists believe the drum to be a "talisman" placed in the grave to protect the children. A radiocarbon date from the bones of one of the children indicates that the bodies were probably buried between 3005 BC and 2890 BC.

stonehenge folkton drum discovery
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Perhaps the most striking aspect of the discovery is the pattern visible on the historical artifact. Etched into the soft stone of the drum are mysterious symbols, similar to the other three Folkton drums, that remain obscure to scientists today. However, the symbols on this drum may be a bit different. "To my mind, the Burton Agnes drum is even more intricately carved and reflects connections between communities in Yorkshire, Stonehenge, Orkney, and Ireland. Analysis of its carvings will help to decipher the symbolism and beliefs of the era in which Stonehenge was constructed," said British Museum curator Neil Wilkin. This discovery could bring us a step closer to understanding the cultural and artistic background of the era in which Stonehenge was built.

"This is a truly remarkable discovery and is the most important piece of prehistoric art to be found in Britain in the last 100 years," Wilkin explained. "The emotions the new drum expresses are powerful and timeless, they transcend the time of Stonehenge and reflect a moment of tragedy and despair that remains undimmed after 5,000 years." The artifact will join the three other Folkton drums, currently displayed at the British Museum, and will become available for the public to see on February 17, 2022. Be sure to stay tuned for more news on historical discoveries!

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