An early Bronze Age log casket containing the remains of a man buried with an ax believed to date back 4,000 years has been accidentally discovered on a golf course.
The discovery of the coffin and its contents sparked a rescue mission funded by a £ 70,000 ($ 97,000) grant from Historic England and supported by a team of staff and students from the University of Sheffield Department of Archeology working nearby and who they offered their help.
The coffin, which measures three meters long and one meter wide, was specially protected to ensure that the delicate structure did not crumble after being exposed to the sun and air.
It was made by hollowing out the trunk of a tree, and plants were used to cushion the body, then a mound of gravel was raised over the grave; practices that were only given to people of high status within Bronze Age society.
The remarkable find was made by chance during works on a pond at Tetney Golf Club in July 2018, during a period of heat. Golf club owner Mark Casswell contacted the Portable Antiquities Scheme and Historic England.
After a year of cold storage while it was being evaluated, it was moved to the York Archaeological Trust, where preservation work has been done.
According to archaeologists, the ax seems more like a symbol of authority than a practical tool, while the coffin gives an idea of how the social hierarchy was marked in the early Bronze Age.
So far, yew or juniper leaves have been found inside the coffin and more work is planned to discover more about how the plants were used in this burial practice and the time of year the burial took place.
The ax is extremely rare, it is believed that only 12 are known in Britain, especially since the wooden shaft survives as does the stone head.
The log casket was originally created by carving a large, single, fast-growing oak.
He used the ‘split wood’ construction technique, in which the tree trunk was split lengthwise first to create a medium or slightly larger trunk for carving, rather than hollowing out an entire tree from scratch. It probably had a lid, part of which survives.
There are around 65 log coffins from the early Bronze Age known to Britain, as it is rare for them to survive as they are made of wood. In this case, a deep layer of silt helped its preservation. However, once the coffin was exposed, it was a race to prevent its rapid deterioration.
Tim Allen of Historic England said: “The man buried in Tetney lived in a world very different from ours, but like ours it was a changing environment, rising sea levels and coastal flooding eventually covered his grave and burial mound. funeral home in a deep layer of silt that helped preserve it.
Mark Casswell, owner of Tetney Golf Club, added: “My family cultivated here for years before we opened the golf course and I never would have imagined there would be a completely different world buried under the courses.
“It is amazing how well preserved the ax is with the handle still there, as was done yesterday. We will have a nice photograph on the wall of the Club House, all those years that people have been living here working the land, it is certainly something to think about while playing on the field. “
Source: Sheffield University
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