An 11,000 year old engraved shale pendant discovered by archaeologists during excavations at the Early Mesolithic site at Star Carr in North Yorkshire is unique in the UK, according to new research.
The artwork on the tiny fragile pendant, uncovered by a research team from the Universities of York, Manchester and Chester, is the earliest known Mesolithic art in Britain. Crafted from a single piece of shale, the subtriangular three-millimetre thick artefact measuring 31mm by 35mm contains a series of lines which archaeologists believe may represent a tree, a map, a leaf or even tally marks.
Engraved motifs on Mesolithic pendants are extremely rare and no other engraved pendants made of shale are known in Europe.
When archaeologists uncovered the pendant last year, the lines on the surface were barely visible. The research team used a range of digital microscopy techniques to generate high resolution images to help determine the style and order of engraving. They also carried out scientific analysis to try to establish if the pendant had been strung or worn and whether pigments had been used to make the lines more prominent.
It was incredibly exciting to discover such a rare object. It is unlike anything we have found in Britain from this period. We can only imagine who owned it, how they wore it and what the engravings actually meant to them.