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A piece of carved wood that was found randomly has turned out to bethe oldest in Britain, as it is estimated to be 6,000 years old.
The decorative piece of oak was discovered in Boxford, Berkshire and is thought to be from the Mesolithic period, making it only the second of its kind to be located in Britain from this time.
According to Historic England, the wood is from the Late Mesolithic period (4640-4605 BC) and the purpose of the markings are unknown but are reminiscent of the decoration seen in early Neolithic pottery.
It was by chance that the metre-long object was found as it lay in peat about 1.5 metres (5ft) below the surface at the bottom of a trench in the midst of an outbuilding being constructed at a property in the Berkshire village.
The waterlogged wood was also not far from the present course of the River Lambourn in a layer of peat.
The oldest decoratively carved wood in Britain, with markings made by Late Mesolithic people more than 6,000 years ago, which has been discovered during the construction of an outbuilding at a property in the historic village of Boxford in BerkshireHistoric England/PA Wire
"It was a rather surprising find at the bottom of a trench dug for foundations for a new building. It was clearly very old and appeared well preserved in peat," Landowner and retired Urological Surgeon Derek Fawcett said.
"After hosing it down, we saw that it had markings that appeared unnatural and possibly man-made."
Since finding the wood four years ago, Fawcett has been working with Historic England and the Boxford History Project while radiocarbon dating of the wood was carried out.
According to experts, this new find is 2,000 years older than Stonehenge and pre-dates the other Mesolithic carved timber found in Maerdy in Wales by around 500 years.
Surface prepartaion work being carried out on the oldest decoratively carved wood in Britain, with markings made by Late Mesolithic people more than 6,000 years ago, which has been discovered during the construction of an outbuilding at a property in the historic village of Boxford in Berkshire.Historic England/PA Wire
"This exciting find has helped to shine new light on our distant past and we're grateful to the landowner for recognising its significance," said Historic England chief executive Duncan Wilson.
"Amazing discoveries like these remind us of the power of archaeology to uncover the hidden narratives that connect us to our roots."
At the moment, the wood is being conserved by Historic England at Fort Cumberland, Portsmouth but it has been donated by Fawcett to the West Berkshire Museum in Newbury where it will eventually go on display.
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