Sunday, 04 October 2015

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Neolithic tridents found during Carlisle 'bypass' work go on display

Two rare millennia-old wooden tridents unearthed as a new road was about to be built have gone on show.

Councillor Keith Little, left, and Phil Bent, of Balfour Beattie admire the tridents

The three-pronged spears, which date to the Neolithic period, were discovered near Stainton during archaeological excavations before work started on the Carlisle Northern Development Route (CNDR) four years ago.

The two-metre-long artefacts, which are nearly 6,000 years old, are believed to have been expertly crafted from a single plank of oak using stone tools.

Only four other similar examples have ever been found in the UK – two in Ehenside Farm, near Penrith, and two others in a bog in Armagh, Northern Ireland. They were all discovered in the 19th century and feature virtually identical designs.

The fact that they show a proficiency in woodworking suggests they were made for an accepted purpose but experts are unsure what that was. Some theories include fishing, hunting or agricultural use.

The pieces have now gone on show at Tullie House Museum in Carlisle where they will remain permanently. Visitors are being asked to suggest what they think they may have been used for.

Andrew Mackay, head of collections and programming, said: “The tridents are so rare that they are of national importance so it’s a great thrill to have them available to show visitors.

“We are very keen to canvass opinion on what they might be so I’d like to encourage everyone to come and see them and let us know what they think.”

Archeology experts at the museum say the pair of tridents would have been heavy, hefty objects, seemingly built for their strength.

They have been submerged and preserved in water-logged ground for nearly six millennia. They were freeze-dried and stabilised with an injection of a waxy substance to replace the water in their structures, because allowing the wood to dry would have damaged them.

Keith Little, Cumbria County Council’s cabinet member for highways, said: “It’s important that local people will have a chance to see these unique artefacts.

“Finding ancient objects like these can seem something of an inconvenience when you’re trying to build the road, but you only get one chance to preserve history.”

The tridents have gone on show in special cases funded by construction firm Balfour Beatty, which built the CNDR.

Andy Dean, the company’s regional director, said: “The project team expected there to be archaeological finds in the vicinity of Hadrian’s Wall and Vallum. However, the tridents, tools and flints discovered in the flood plain are of equal national importance."


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