Woodworker Finds UK's Oldest Piece of Carved Wood

Derek Fawcett's discovery was found to be at least 6K years old
By Steve Huff,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 9, 2023 1:54 PM CDT
Woodworker Finds UK's Oldest Piece of Carved Wood
The historic hunk of wood.   (Historic England / PA)

In 2019, retired British surgeon Derek Fawcett was having a workshop built, planning to indulge in his new retirement hobby of wood-turning. As the Guardian reports, an unexpected discovery catapulted him into the world of archaeology. Workers found a blackened chunk of wood that, upon closer inspection, was revealed to be the oldest carved piece of wood ever discovered in Britain, dating back over 6,000 years to the late Mesolithic era—predating both Roman occupation and the building of Stonehenge. The artifact—which was just over three feet in length—had been preserved in peat almost five feet below ground. As Metro UK notes, peat can help preserve everything from human remains to wood because the lack of oxygen slows decay.

Fawcett's discovery was labeled "amazing" by the UK's Historic England agency, and radiocarbon dating proved it was at least 500 years older than a similar find made in Wales about a decade ago, per the BBC. The wood has markings that appear to be man-made, though their purpose isn't clear. Fawcett's piece underwent testing at the Nottingham Tree-ring Dating Laboratory and the Center for Isotope Research at the University of Groningen, which confirmed its age. Fawcett, who has donated it to the West Berkshire Museum in Newbury, tells the Guardian he wasn't initially impressed when workers first showed it to him. "It looked like a big stump of wood," he recalls. "I wondered if I could turn it into some nice bowls.” (More archaeology stories.)

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