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Roos Carr Figures

Carved wooden figures

This is a Yorkshire World Collections object, one of 100 chosen by young people aged 16-24, as part of the London Cultural Olympiad programme Stories of the World.


What are they?

Roos Carr Figures are wooden figures carved from Yew with removable gentalia and inset quartzite eyes.

When were they made?

They were radiocarbon dated to 606-508 BC; discovered at Roos Carr, near Withernsea, East Yorkshire.

Who made them?

They were made by Celtic warriors.

How old are they?

The figures are 2,600 years old.

What were they used for?

The figures may represent votive offerings of some kind, perhaps gods or ancestor figures. The fact that they were apparently recovered from 'a layer of blue clay' suggests that they were originally deposited in or near water. This would be in keeping with the wider European cult practice of depositing items such as metalwork in rivers, marshes and other marginal land.

How was it used?

It was used as a votive. A votive is a deposit or offering displayed or deposited, without the intention of recovery or use, in a sacred place for broadly religious purposes. A recent study has suggested that the choice of wood may be significant and relate to the particular god being represented. Perhaps there is a link between a particular god and a type of wood, such as the Norse God, Odin (or his earlier manifestation, Ull), and the yew tree.

There are actually nine other surviving comparable figures in Britain and Ireland, ranging in date from about 2,500 BC to 148 BC. They are made from a number of different woods - ash, pine, yew or oak. Some are definitely male; some, like the Roos Carr figures, have removable genitalia and so could be either male or female. Only one, from Ballachulish in Scotland, is unambiguously female.

Discussion Ideas:

  • To explore our ancestors potential beliefs and customs
  • To explore why it was found where it was
  • To identify why the object survived such a long period of time
The map below shows where the figures were found in East Yorkshire:





 
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