‘Ebb and flow’ of Europe links re­vealed by finds

Western Daily Press - - News - EMILY BEA­MENT news@west­erndai­ly­press.co.uk

THE chang­ing na­ture of our an­cient an­ces­tors’ re­la­tion­ship with the Con­ti­nent will be re­vealed in a new ex­hi­bi­tion at Stone­henge.

Ob­jects in the dis­play, which in­clude prized items from the British Mu­seum’s col­lec­tion from an­cient Bri­tain and Europe, range from a 6,500-year-old pol­ished jade axe to an elab­o­rate gold neck piece made around 4,000 years ago.

Through the arte­facts, English Her­itage’s Mak­ing Con­nec­tions ex­hi­bi­tion at Stone­henge – a cen­tre of an­cient Bri­tain – high­lights how there were dif­fer­ent pe­ri­ods of con­nec­tion with and rel­a­tive iso­la­tion from Europe.

In the early Ne­olithic pe­riod, be­fore Stone­henge was built, mass mi­gra­tions of peo­ple who were the first farm­ers and the ear­li­est metal work­ers took place.

In the late Ne­olithic, when Stone­henge was be­ing con­structed, com­mu­ni­ties were trav­el­ling and ex­chang­ing ideas from Orkney to south­ern Eng­land – but there was lit­tle or no com­mu­ni­ca­tion with con­ti­nen­tal Europe, ex­perts say.

Later came an­other pe­riod of con­nec­tion with Europe, and the Beaker cul­ture that brought Bronze Age tech­nol­ogy to th­ese shores 4,500 years ago was part of a mi­gra­tion that al­most com­pletely re­placed the com­mu­ni­ties of Bri­tain in just a few cen­turies.

The ex­hi­bi­tion opens with a jade axe made of stone from the Ital­ian Alps, brought from con­ti­nen­tal Europe 1,500 years be­fore Stone­henge was built, which would have been highly prized and con­nected peo­ple to their home­lands.

The fol­low­ing pe­riod of sep­a­ra­tion is rep­re­sented by the ‘Folk­ton drums’, three chalk cylin­ders dec­o­rated with spi­rals and stylised faces dat­ing from the late Ne­olithic around 3,000BC and found in a child’s burial site in North York- shire. Ex­perts said the style of dec­o­ra­tion on the drums was known from me­galithic mon­u­ments, pot­tery and other items across Bri­tain and Ire­land, but not fur­ther afield.

A cop­per al­loy ‘sun disc’, dat­ing from 1500BC to 1300BC and found in Ire­land, which is thought to be part of a model char­iot pulled by a di­vine horse, will be go­ing on dis­play for the first time in liv­ing me­mory.

Re­cently re­dis­cov­ered in the British Mu­seum store, it is of a type other­wise only known from con­ti­nen­tal Europe and shows that Bronze Age beliefs about how the sun and moon trav­elled across the sky were shared by peo­ple liv­ing across the re­gion.

The 4,000-year-old Bless­ing­ton gold lunula, a beaten-gold cres­cent neck piece, also found in Ire­land, shows that by 2,000BC peo­ple were reg­u­larly ex­chang­ing met­als over long dis­tances.

Although th­ese kinds of or­na­ments are al­most ex­clu­sively found in Ire­land and Bri­tain, the mo­tifs used to dec­o­rate them were drawn from Eu­ro­pean Beaker pot­tery and tex­tiles, the ex­perts said.

A Bronze Age cup made of a sin­gle sheet of gold, which shows close con­nec­tions be­tween south­ern Eng­land and north­ern France, and flesh-hooks for lift­ing meat out of caul­drons and dec­o­rated with birds are also on dis­play.

Su­san Gre­aney, English Her­itage his­to­rian, said: “From in­su­lar com­mu­ni­ties with what ap­pears to be lit­tle out­side com­mu­ni­ca­tion, to mass mi­gra­tions and the shar­ing of raw ma­te­ri­als and fin­ished arte­facts, our an­ces­tors have been mak­ing and break­ing re­la­tion­ships with con­ti­nen­tal Europe for thou­sands of years.

“Through­out the Ne­olithic and Bronze Age, Stone­henge stood at the cen­tre of this con­stantly chang­ing ebb and flow of ob­jects, styles, peo­ple and ideas.”

Mak­ing Con­nec­tions: Stone­henge in its Pre­his­toric World opens to the pub­lic to­mor­row and will run un­til April 21, 2019. Ad­mis­sion is in­cluded in the Stone­henge ticket price.

Pic­ture: Matt Cardy/Getty

Stone­henge was at the cen­tre of a con­stantly chang­ing flow of ‘ob­jects, styles, peo­ple and ideas’

Ob­jects in­cluded in the show (clock­wise from above):the carved chalk cylin­dersknown as the Folk­ton Drums;the early Ne­olithic jade axe; the Bronze Age flesh-hook

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