Humans

Incredible 5,000-year-old drum found in the grave of ‘cuddling’ prehistoric children

A Stonehenge-era chalk drum is the “most important piece of prehistoric art to be found in Britain in the last 100 years,” according to the British Museum.

The 5,000-year-old drum, discovered within an ancient children’s burial site, is to go on display for the first time next week, per CNN. 

It will be unveiled, six years after its discovery, as part of the “World of Stonehenge” exhibition at the British Museum.

The drum was found on a country estate near the village of Burton Agnes in East Yorkshire, England, in 2015 when a routine excavation had to be carried out so the owners could erect a structure, The Washington Post reported.

Decorated clay drum, ball and bone pin.The Burton Agnes chalk drum, clay ball, and bone pin. (The Trustees of the British Museum)

During the routine excavation, a team of archaeologists with the independent company Allen Archaeology found an ancient burial site. Within the burial site were the remains of three children, aged 3 to 12, whose bones had been intertwined for millennia.

“They were cuddling,” Mark Allen, the founder of Allen Archaeology, told The Washington Post.

The drum was placed above the head of the eldest child, along with a chalk ball and a polished bone pin, per science news aggregator Phys.org.

Archeologists do not believe the drum was used as a musical instrument despite the name. It was more likely a piece of sculptural art, a talisman, or, perhaps, a toy for the children.

The grave is a rare find, according to the Washington Post, because ancient people in Neolithic Britain would usually leave bodies for cremation or to be eaten by crows. 

And the drum is so significant because it is “one of the most elaborately decorated objects of this period found anywhere in Britain and Ireland,” the British Museum said.

The carvings on the drum, which show spirals and triangles, feature a “butterfly” motif, British Museum curator Neil Wilkin told The Washington Post.

They are artistically similar to other objects found at Neolithic sites in Scotland and Ireland, Wilkin said, suggesting that prehistoric communities were in communication with each other despite significant geographical distances.

“This drum is particularly intriguing, because it basically encompasses a sort of artistic language that we see throughout the British Isles at this time, and we’re talking 5,000 years ago,” project curator Jennifer Wexler told CNN.

The discovery comes more than 100 years since the unearthing of the Folkton Drums. Three similar chalk drums were found in the village of Folkton – around 15 miles (24 km) from Burton Agnes – in 1889.

Wilkin told The Washington Post, “We’ve been waiting for over 100 years for another one of these amazing objects to come up, and for it to come up with children – again – is astonishing.”

This article was originally published by Business Insider.

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