A group of archaeologists recently discovered the oldest known art in Britain, dating back towards the end of the Ice Age. The collection of hunter artefacts includes stone pieces carved with crisscrossed lines, making them the earliest known artwork found in the British Isles.
Archaeologists believe the artefact collection is at least 14,000 years old. The stone pieces do not have the same level of craftsmanship of discovered artworks of ancient Egypt. However, experts believe the mere act of engraving is the most notable find in the entire collection.
"They're not a thing that is supposed to be admired, it's the act of engraving that seems to be important," said Ice Age Island project co-director Dr. Chantal Conneller who stressed that radiocarbon dating is needed to confirm the exact age of the collection. The team is set to inspect the engravings more closely and, at the same time, discover more of them.
The Ice Age Island project has been digging on Jersey's south east area of Les Varines for five years. Conneller said the artefact collection they found could have been part of the Magdalenian art. The Magdalenian people were hunter-gatherers believed to be one of the cultures that recolonized Europe 16,000 to 13,000 years ago towards the end of the Ice Age.
The stone fragments they found were probably part of larger tablets that were smashed into pieces and typically covered in repetitive lines. The artefact is common in Magdalenian camps in Germany and France where hundreds of carved stones could be found. Conneller is hoping that what they got could be part of something bigger.
Dr. Silvia Bello from the Natural History Museum in London uses microscopic techniques to examine the stone fragments. She expressed that their discovery is still in the preliminary stages. Early findings showed that the stone fragments do not originally come from the site where they were discovered. The incised lines suggest they were carved using stone tools. Moreover, the lines do not suggest any practical use and microscopic studies show that some kind of arrangement is evident in the design. The various depths and widths in the 'cuts' suggest something else than a functional role.
Prior to the Ice Age find, the earliest known stone wall carvings were found at Creswell Crags in Derbyshire, which dates back 12,000 years ago. The Derbyshire carvings were discovered in 2003.
The artifact collection can be viewed at the Jersey Museum where the exhibition will run through 2016.