A rare log-coffin dating to the early Bronze Age, c.4,000 years ago, has been found on a golf course in Lincolnshire, UK. The delicate wooden structure was discovered at Tetney golf course in July 2018, prompting a rescue mission to conserve and analyse the remains, which will require careful specialist treatment over the coming months.
The coffin is about 3m long and 1m wide, and was carved out of the trunk of a large oak tree, which had been split in half lengthways and then hollowed out inside. It is thought to have had a lid as well, part of which survives. Only c.65 early Bronze Age log-coffins have been found in Britain, and it is especially rare for them to survive after discovery.
The coffin contains the remains of a man and an axe, which is thought to have been more of a symbol of authority than a practical tool. The axe is a particularly unusual find, with only 12 like it known, and the exceptional preservation of the wooden haft as well as the stone head is very rare.
Also found inside the coffin were the remains of plants used to cushion the body. So far, yew or juniper leaves have been identified, but it is hoped that more work will reveal further details about how plants were used as part of burial practices, as well as possibly telling us at what time of year the burial took place.
The effort involved in the coffin’s construction indicates that the individual was of high status, providing important information about social hierarchy in early Bronze Age Britain.
Initial analysis of the coffin and its contents has been completed since its discovery, and further research and physical conservation are under way. Work by the University of Sheffield and York Archaeological Trust is supported by expertise and grant aid from Historic England. After the painstaking preservation is completed, the finds will go to Lincoln’s museum The Collection.