An ancient drum found in a child’s grave is considered the ‘most important’ prehistoric work of art for 100 years

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Written by Jeevan Ravindran, CNN

A 5,000-year-old chalk drum will go on public display for the first time next week, more than six years after it was discovered by archaeologists in England.
The object was discovered alongside the burial of three children and has been touted as ‘the most significant piece of prehistoric art found in Britain in the last 100 years’, in a press release from the British Museum , who will reveal it next week. as part of the “The World of Stonehenge” exhibition.

First discovered by independent firm Allen Archeology during a routine dig in the Yorkshire village of Burton Agnes in 2015, the drum has since been the subject of extensive research and conservation. Despite its name, the object is not considered a musical instrument but rather a work of sculptural art.

Burton Agnes burial site in the county of Yorkshire, England. Credit: Allen Archeology

Project curator for the British Museum exhibition, Jennifer Wexler, told CNN the find was particularly notable in the context of three similar drums first discovered in the village of Folkton – about 15 miles from Burton Agnes – in 1889.

“This drum is particularly intriguing because it basically encompasses a kind of artistic language that we see in the British Isles at this time, and we’re talking about 5,000 years ago,” Wexler told CNN.

The Burton Agnes drum has a “sun cross” on its top, and Wexler said the drum features “all of these ideas that we see in all walks of life, but in one really amazing object” – decorated with designs resembling other seen in Scotland and Ireland.

“With this new discovery, we are able to date the skeletons with carbon-14 dating (also known as radiocarbon dating),” Wexler told CNN. “So what we’ve found is that these style drums are 500 years older than we thought, which is amazing.”

The museum said the Folkton drums previously dated to 2500-2000 BC, but radiocarbon dating of the children of Burton Agnes indicated a date of 3005-2890 BC, around the same time the monument was originally built. British Stonehenge.

Burton Agnes chalk drum, chalk ball and bone pin.  3005--2890BC.

Burton Agnes chalk drum, chalk ball and bone pin. 3005–2890BC. Credit: © Trustees of the British Museum

Wexler said the children’s skeletons will also undergo DNA analysis, which will be used to determine their relationship. She said they were of varying ages, with the oldest being between 10 and 12 years old, while the youngest were between six and nine and between three and five.

They were found placed in the grave with the eldest holding the two younger ones, who were holding hands, and Wexler said the drum could have been used as a toy for children, and there could have been versions wood that have not survived over time. .

The museum said the drum was found above the eldest child’s head and included three “hastily added holes, possibly marking the presence of the three bodies in the grave”. A chalk ball and a polished bone pin were also found in the tomb.

The rarity of the drum is particularly noteworthy, with Wexler claiming that even burials were rare at the time and generally reserved for children – and the museum said it was “one of the most richly decorated objects of this era. period that can be found in Great Britain and Ireland.”

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