Tuesday, 18 June 2013

The Folkton drums

Late Neolithic period, 2600-2000 BC Found in East Yorkshire, England

Mysterious grave goods

"These objects were found by Canon William Greenwell in 1889 when he opened a round barrow on Folkton Wold. They had been placed behind the head and hips of the body of a child in an oval grave close to the outer of two concentric ditches. Several other bodies shared the monument. The custom of burying individuals with 'special' grave goods had begun by about 3000 BC. This grave offering is exceptional (the drums are unique) and must indicate something about the status of the child.

The drums are made from local chalk and are elaborately carved, using a technique very like that of chip-carving used by woodworkers. No other objects like them survive, but perhaps equivalent items were made of wood and have not survived. We do not know how they were used.

The decoration is organized in panels; stylized human faces look out from two of the drums. The significance of the designs is unknown to us, though they are very similar to those found on pottery of the Later Neolithic Grooved Ware style. The geometric patterns recall Beaker pottery and Early Bronze Age sheet goldwork decorated in the same vein."

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