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Turns Out an 11,000 Year Old Pendant Is the Earliest Mesolithic Art in Britain

The tiny fragile pendant was discovered by archaeologists during excavations at the Early Mesolithic site at Star Carr in North Yorkshire.   (Image:   Star Carr via  Screenshot YouTube )
The tiny fragile pendant was discovered by archaeologists during excavations at the Early Mesolithic site at Star Carr in North Yorkshire. (Image: Star Carr via Screenshot YouTube )

Some say art never ages; well now you can make your own mind up.  An engraved shale pendant has been discovered by archaeologists and it is thought to be 11,000 years old.

The tiny fragile pendant was discovered by archaeologists during excavations at the Early Mesolithic site at Star Carr in North Yorkshire. The artwork which is engraved on the single piece of shale is the earliest known Mesolithic art in Britain.

The Pendant

The almost triangular pendant is .0118 inch (3mm) thick and measures 1.22 inch (31mm) by 1.37 inch (35mm). It  has a series of lines inscribed on it, which archaeologists believe may represent a tree, a map, a leaf or even tally marks.

Star Carr has a number of archaeological sites, surrounding what was once the location of a huge lake which would have covered much of the Vale of Pickering during the Mesolithic era.

The researchers discovered the pendant in the lake edge deposits, and had initially thought it was a natural stone. The University of York wrote that the perforation was filled with sediment and the engravings were not visible at the time.

Dr Barry Taylor who was co-director of the excavations, from the University of Chester said in a statement:

Watch this video from Star Carr about the pendant:

Duncan Wilson the Chief Executive of Historic England, who contributed to and had part-funded the excavation and research publication said:

The Artwork

While engraved motifs on Mesolithic pendants are extremely rare, there are no other engraved pendants made of shale known in Europe. The series of lines on this artifact, archaeologists believe may represent a tree, a map, a leaf or even tally marks.

Professor Nicky Milner, of the Department of Archaeology at York, who led the research said:

When the Mesolithic pendant was discovered last year, the lines on the surface were barely noticeable. It took the use of a range of digital microscopy techniques to produce high resolution images, which helped to determine the style and order of engraving.

Engraved motifs on Mesolithic pendants are extremely rare and no other engraved pendants made of shale are known in Europe. (Image: University of York via CC BY 3.0)

Engraved motifs on Mesolithic pendants are extremely rare and no other engraved pendants made of shale are known in Europe. (Image: University of York via CC BY 3.0)

Dr Chantal Conneller, from The University of Manchester and co-director of the excavations, said:

The research team also carried out scientific analysis to establish whether the pendant had been strung or worn and if pigments had been used. This is the first perforated artefact which has an engraved design to be discovered at Star Carr.

Here is the scan of the pendant from Star Carr:

Where can you see it

The pendant will be showcased to the public for the first time, at the Yorkshire Museum in York on 27 February until 5 May. The display will also feature other Star Carr finds including flints, a rare barbed point used for hunting or fishing and 11,000 year old fire lighters. These will feature alongside the digital interpretation and high resolution imagery of the pendant.

Natalie McCaul, curator of archaeology at the Yorkshire Museum, said:

The research was published in Internet Archaeology.

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