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Rare Mesolithic Artifact: Engraved Shale Pendant Discovered, Unique in UK

Feb 27, 2016 01:30 PM EST

An engraved pendant made of shale, 11,000 years old, was discovered by archaeologists at an Early Mesolithic site in the North Yorkshire area of Star Carr.

It is unique to the U.K., says new research.

This makes it the earliest known Mesolithic art in Britain. It was found by a team from the Universities of York, Manchester and Chester. It is a 3-mm thick artifact measuring 31 mm by 35 mm. The artwork on it is believed to represent a map, a tree, a leaf or possibly tally marks.

Finding such an engraving on pendants of the period is very rare, and in Europe no other engraved shale pendants are known, either.

The team was able to discern more details about the engraved lines by using digital microscopy techniques, showing high-resolution images. The research was published in the journal Internet Archaeology.

The site is one of several around a very large lake that was covering a significant portion of the Vale of Pickering during the Mesolithic era.

"This exciting find tells us about the art of the first permanent settlers of Britain after the last Ice Age. This was a time when sea-level was much lower than today. Groups roamed across Doggerland (land now under the North Sea) and into Britain. The designs on our pendant are similar to those found in southern Scandinavia and other areas bordering the North Sea, showing a close cultural connection between northern European groups at this time," said Dr. Chantal Conneller of The University of Manchester and an excavation co-director, in a statement

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-Follow Catherine on Twitter @TreesWhales

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