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Anthropomorphic Wooden Figures from Britain and Ireland

  • Bryony Coles (a1)

Since 1840, a number of anthropomorphic wooden figures have been discovered in Britain and Ireland. They are described and illustrated, and aspects of their manufacture discussed. Previous interpretations of date and function are reviewed, noting the lack of recent interest, and the evidence available for dating the figures is summarized, demonstrating that although they were generally attributed to the later prehistoric period no firm evidence supported this conclusion. AMS radiocarbon dates have recently confirmed the prehistoric age of the carvings, ranging from about 3000 BC cal. to about 350 BC cal. Similar wooden figures from the continent are briefly examined, along with comparative representations in other media, and some common features are identified. The significance of various similarities and attributes is discussed, noting affinities with Scandinavian rock-art and bog-burials. The sexual ambiguity of the figures is recognized, along with a tendency to asymmetry and slighting of the left side of the face. It is suggested that these attributes may relate to the original symbolism of the carvings.

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Proceedings of the Prehistoric Society
  • ISSN: 0079-497X
  • EISSN: 2050-2729
  • URL: /core/journals/proceedings-of-the-prehistoric-society
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