I am currently working on a project looking at the art of portable Neolithic artefacts from Britain and Ireland. One of the remarkable findings so far is the degree to which markings on these artefacts have been erased and reworked. This is especially true of chalk artefacts. These processes of reworking provide important information about craft techniques, and the significance of art and imagery in this period of prehistory.
To test these observations it was important to analyse the most spectacular chalk artefacts from the British Neolithic – the Folkton Drums. By special request the ‘drums’ – carved cylinders of chalk from Neolithic Yorkshire – were removed from display in the British Museum for an intensive day of analysis. So on 4th April a group of researchers from Archaeology, Winchester School of Art, Central St. Martins Art School, London, and Cardiff University recorded the ‘drums’ using a hand-held laser scanner, photogrammetry, and using RTI (Reflectance Transformation Imaging). These techniques were used to analyse trace evidence of reworking or recarving. The techniques we used take some time to process so I will update this when they arrive. However on the day we also had lots of opportunity for detailed analysis of the three Folkton Drums, and learnt a great deal more about the variety of different techniques used to carve them. The ‘drums’ are one of a select group of Neolithic artefacts with representational features – they have faces – and by the end of the day all of us had become captivated by them.
Researchers included Ian Dawson and Chris Carter (WSA), Louisa Minkin (Central St. Martins), Marta Diaz Guardamino Uribe, Lena Kotoula, Andrew Meirion Jones (Archaeology, University of Southamton) and Andrew Cochrane (Archaeology, Cardiff University).