Cambridgeshire Quarry throws up 4,500-year-old find

Jul 16, 2010
Cambridgeshire Quarry throws up 4,500-year-old find

 (PhysOrg.com) -- A remarkable piece of Neolithic rock art, unlike anything previously found in Eastern England, has been unearthed in the Cambridgeshire village of Over.

The hand-sized , which could date back to 2,500 BC, was found by a participant in a geological weekend course which was being run by the University of Cambridge's Institute for Continuing Education.

It consists of a hand-sized slab of weathered with two pairs of concentric circles etched into the surface - a motif which, according to , is typical of "Grooved Ware" art from the later Neolithic era.

While examples of similar Grooved Ware art have been discovered at sites elsewhere in the UK, this is the first time that any such find has been encountered in Eastern England, which may provide more information about the connections of the communities who inhabited the area 4,500 years ago.

The motives of whoever created the design are unclear. Researchers say that it could represent the ornamental efforts of a Prehistoric Picasso, but may just as easily have been an aimless inscription.

"It really is a fantastic find; certainly we have had nothing like it from any of our sites before," Dr. Chris Evans, Director of the Cambridge Archaeological Unit, which operates out of the Department of Archaeology at the University of Cambridge, said.

"In fact, it's unique in Eastern England, with the nearest comparable example being the similar scratch patterns on a sandstone plaque from a Grooved Ware site in Leicestershire. Otherwise you would have to look to Wessex or Northern Britain and the much more formal Megalithic Art of the period."

"The big question in the case of the Over stone is whether we should actually be calling it meaningful art, or if it amounted to no more than Neolithic doodling. Either way it's a great find."

The stone will make its first public appearance since the discovery was made this Saturday (July 17th), when it will go on display at Over Village Carnival.

It was found by Susie Sinclair, who was taking part in the weekend course led by Dr Peter Sheldon (from the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences, The Open University) at Hanson Aggregates' Needingworth Quarry. The quarry lies north and west of Over alongside the River Great Ouse.

The Cambridge Archaeological Unit has been excavating sites within the quarry for 15 years, partly in an effort to better understand the shape and nature of the landscape in prehistoric times. The remains of several settlement clusters from the late Neolithic period have already been found.

The Over stone, however, was hidden in the quarry's spoil, one of the heaps of waste geological materials discarded by quarry workers. Researchers believe it had been deposited within one of the river's ancient palaeochannels crossing the area and that, with the existing information they have about the geographical layout of the region, the point where it was found can be reconstructed with relative ease.

The area around Over and the River Great Ouse would have looked dramatically different 4,500 years ago. Huge, "S" shaped bends from the river originally meandered across the fens and efforts to tame them only really began in earnest in the late medieval period.

According to the latest research, at the time the Over stone was being carved, the countryside would have been dominated by the snaking course of the river, its tributary channels and flooding. This would essentially have broken the area up into a delta-like landscape of small islands, channels and marshlands.

Explore further: Ancient clay seals may shed light on biblical era

More information: Further information about the Cambridge Archaeological Unit and its work in the area can be found at: www-cau.arch.cam.ac.uk/

Related Stories

Megalithic rock art discovered in Anglesey

May 10, 2006

Spectacular megalithic rock-art has been discovered within one of Britain’s most important Neolithic monuments and recorded by a team of archaeologists from the University of Bristol.

Ancient tombs discovered by Kingston University-led team

Jun 09, 2009

A prehistoric complex including two 6,000-year-old tombs representing some of the earliest monuments built in Britain has been discovered by a team led by a Kingston University archaeologist. Dr Helen Wickstead and her colleagues ...

'Blue Stonehenge' discovered

Oct 06, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- Archaeologists have released an artist’s impression of what a second stone circle found a mile from Stonehenge might have looked like.

New clues in Easter Island hat mystery

Sep 07, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- A team of archaeologists has come one step closer to unravelling the mystery of how the famous statues dotting the landscape of a tiny Pacific island acquired their distinctive red hats.

Recommended for you

Ancient clay seals may shed light on biblical era

12 hours ago

Impressions from ancient clay seals found at a small site in Israel east of Gaza are signs of government in an area thought to be entirely rural during the 10th century B.C., says Mississippi State University archaeologist ...

Digging up the 'Spanish Vikings'

Dec 19, 2014

The fearsome reputation of the Vikings has made them the subject of countless exhibitions, books and films - however, surprisingly little is known about their more southerly exploits in Spain.

Short-necked Triassic marine reptile discovered in China

Dec 17, 2014

A new species of short-necked marine reptile from the Triassic period has been discovered in China, according to a study published December 17, 2014 in the open-access journal PLOS ONE by Xiao-hong Chen f ...

Gothic cathedrals blend iron and stone

Dec 17, 2014

Using radiocarbon dating on metal found in Gothic cathedrals, an interdisciplinary team has shown, for the first time through absolute dating, that iron was used to reinforce stone from the construction phase. ...

User comments : 8

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

panorama
not rated yet Jul 16, 2010
The stone will make its first public appearance since the discovery was made this Saturday (July 17th), when it will go on display at Over Village Carnival.

Did anyone else read this as if the stone was discovered in the future?
TJ_alberta
Jul 16, 2010
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
GSwift7
1 / 5 (1) Jul 16, 2010
"been unearthed in the Cambridgeshire village of Over"

It would have made a better caption if they had said "..unearthed in Cambriedgeshire under Over"
GaryB
not rated yet Jul 16, 2010
The stone will make its first public appearance since the discovery was made this Saturday (July 17th), when it will go on display at Over Village Carnival.

Did anyone else read this as if the stone was discovered in the future?


The grammar is correct. Archeology is getting so good today that they can predict when someone will find something and what it will look like several days in advance.
WriterSP
5 / 5 (1) Jul 16, 2010
One thing that always troubles me about researchers'speculations concerning carved stone artifacts is the off-hand way that the carver's effort is often suggested to be possibly just "doodling" or "scribbling"; it takes some serious, intentional effort to carve stone. It is vastly more labor-intensive than smearing ochre on a wall (no slight intended to those artists). I would venture to propose, as a rule-of-thumb, that any stone carving must have some significance and meaning, something of import lying within those etched markings that the carver believed needed to be preserved and passed down for others. Opinions?
scidog
5 / 5 (1) Jul 16, 2010
writer--i was thinking that also,the circles look like part and counter part.i would like to see some sort of computer work done on the image so we can get an idea of what it looked like when it was made and if possible what is up and down,left and right.
Nartoon
2 / 5 (1) Jul 16, 2010
WriterSP said "it takes some serious, intentional effort to carve stone." Sandstone is very soft and could be carved with a stone or stick after a relatively short time.
ubavontuba
Jul 17, 2010
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
Husky
not rated yet Jul 17, 2010
neolithic hooters written in stone an i am not attempting a cheap joke, because they've found venus figurines, such as the Venus of Hohle Fels dating back 35000 years, wich emphasizes the fertility of a woman by their oversized breasts and genitalia
scidog
not rated yet Jul 17, 2010
hail stones?..just a few minutes ago we had some nasty weather around Minneapolis and the TV had viewer sent photos of the huge hail stones picked up..the look just like that,flat discs with a center knob.i would think our carver found huge hunks of ice from the sky and did a carving like we do cell phone photos.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.