A 5,000-year-old chalk sculpture discovered in the Yorkshire countryside is “the most important piece of prehistoric art to be found in Britain in the last 100 years”, the British Museum has said.
The sculpture, which will be displayed at the British Museum in London, is decorated with patterns that fit an artistic style from around the same time Stonehenge was built.
The drum was found near the village of Burton Agnes and provides insights into cultural interaction between prehistoric communities across Britain and Ireland.
The Burton Agnes drum's significance lies in its similarity to three drums that were uncovered 15 miles away in Folkton, North Yorkshire, in 1889. The drums are all barrel-shaped cylinders of solid chalk that were found at burial sites – it is thought that they were not used for music, but rather decoration.
Carbon-dating of bones buried alongside the Burton Agnes drum placed it within the years 3005-2890BC. Also found at the burial site were a bone pin and a chalk ball, which is thought could be a fertility symbol.
This suggests that at the same time as the monument’s stone monoliths were being moved from west Wales to Salisbury Plain, communities across Britain and Ireland were also sharing artistic styles, and likely beliefs, over long distances.
Neil Wilkin, curator of The World of Stonehenge at the British Museum, said the Burton Agnes drum “reflects connections between communities in Yorkshire, Stonehenge, Orkney and Ireland”.