Wednesday, June 07, 2023

Garden building earthworks uncover oldest decoratively carved wood in Britain


A large piece of wood discovered by chance, lying in peat in excellent condition during the construction of a workshop in Boxford, Berkshire, has been identified by Historic England as being more than 6,000 years old, making it the oldest decoratively carved wood in Britain.

The piece of waterlogged carved oak is a metre long, 0.42m wide and 0.2m thick and was discovered by landowner Derek Fawcett during groundworks for the building of a workshop. It was found 1.5m below the surface in a layer of peat which can preserve organic materials like wood over thousands of years because the normal processes of decay are slowed due to a lack of oxygen.

The timber was removed and later that day it was cleaned and found to have some markings that did not appear to be natural.

The purpose of the markings on this piece of timber is not known, but they are reminiscent of the decoration seen in early Neolithic pottery and are also believed to be similar to the body decoration on the Shigir Idol, a wooden sculpture found in the Ural Mountains of Russia which, at over 12,000 years old, is believed to be the oldest example of carved wood in the world.

It is now being conserved at Historic England’s science facility in Fort Cumberland in Portsmouth. Pictured below (courtesy Historic England) is  Judith Dobie, Archaeological Illustrator at Historic England, tracing the markings on the Boxford Timber.

"It was a rather surprising find at the bottom of a trench dug for foundations for a new building," said M Fawcett, a retired urological surgeon. "It was clearly very old and appeared well preserved in peat. After hosing it down, we saw that it had markings that appeared unnatural and possibly man-made."

It is 500 years older than the only other known decoratively carved timber in Britain, discovered near Maerdy in Wales, which dates to the Late Mesolithic/Early Neolithic period (around 4270 to 4000 BC).

Duncan Wilson, Chief Executive of Historic England, said: “It’s remarkable that by doing routine building work, a piece of modest-looking decorative wood turns out to be the oldest ever found in Britain. Amazing discoveries like these remind us of the power of archaeology to uncover the hidden narratives that connect us to our roots.”

Mr Fawcett has donated the timber to the West Berkshire Museum in Newbury where it will eventually go on display. 


SMART designs and manufactures industry leading garden rooms from our very own Suffolk factory and installed all over mainland UK

No comments:

Post a Comment