A unique piece of 4,500-year-old rock art has been unearthed in the Cambridgeshire village of Over.
The prehistoric slab of sandstone is unlike anything previously found in Eastern England.
The hand-sized neolithic artefact, which possible dates back as far as 2,500 BC, was found at Needingworth Quarry by Open University student Susie Sinclair.
Intothe stone’ssurface, two pair of concentric circles are etched, typical of late Neolithic ‘Grooved Ware’ art.
Researchers do not know if the motif represents a type of meaningful art, or if it is nothing more than Neolithic doodling.
Examples of similar Grooved Ware art have been discovered at sites elsewhere in Britain, such as Skara Brae, but the Over stone is the first object with these scratch patterns found in Eastern England.
Dr. Chris Evans, Director of the Cambridge Archaeological Unit, explains: “It’s unique in Eastern England, with the nearest comparable example being the similar scratch patterns on a sandstone plaque from a Grooved Ware site in Leicestershire. Otherwise you would have to look to Wessex or Northern Britain and the much more formal Megalithic Art of the period.”
As such, the sandstone slab may provide more information about connections between the different communities inhabiting the area 4,500 years ago.
At that time, the Needingworth area was a delta-like landscape, dominated by the River Great Ouse.
There would not have been one river, but many, carving up the valley into a series of small islands and wet marshlands.
Only in Medieval times the river was straightenedand thefenlands drained.
The Cambridge Archaeologial Unit has been excavating at the quarry for more than a decade.
So far Neolithic ‘pit settlements’, large groups of barrows and a Bronze Age fieldsystem extending for hundreds of hectares on both sides of the river have been identified in the Needingworth prehistoric landscape.
Since 2007, the quarry landis – quite appropriately – being restored to be part of a massivewetland bird reserve, the largest of its kind in Europe.
The stone will make its first public appearance since the discovery was made this Saturday (July 17th), when it will go on display at Over Village Carnival.