Recording the Folkton Drums at the British Museum

Considerable evidence of working on drum 1


My last blog post concerned the recording and data capture of the three Neolithic artefacts known as the Folkton Drums at the British Museum. Thanks to the hard work and computing genius of Lena Kotoula and Marta Díaz-Guaramino, since then we have had time to process the data and have had some spectacular results.

Lena, Marta and I spent around six hours staring at the computer screen back in early June amazed at the results from this analysis, and picking out one feature after another that had never before been recorded.

The most spectacular results are that the base of the largest artefact, drum 1 has considerable evidence of working, with a series of parallel scratched lines, and a motif very like those found in passage graves in Orkney. Also amazing is the face of drum 2, as we found evidence of an erased ‘eyebrow’ above the central motif – this indicates clear evidence of reworking, and the removal of an earlier motif before the creation of the present motifs.

Evidence of an erased ‘eyebrow’ above the central motif on drum 2Evidence of an erased ‘eyebrow’ above the central motif on drum 2

One of the key aspects of the project is to record evidence for working and reworking. This was clearly evident on the side panel of drum 1, where we could see clear sequences of working, erasure and reworking. The digital imaging technique of RTI (Reflectance Transformation Imaging) has been especially useful in highlighting fine-grained detail allowing us as researchers to understand the sequence, techniques and gestures used to craft ancient artefacts. The technique is giving us a whole new picture of these intriguing Neolithic artefacts.

Dr A