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Folkton Drums
Folkton Drums.JPG
Folkton Drums displayed in the British Museum
Material Chalk
Size 8.7 cm (height)
Created 2600–2100 BC
Discovered 1889
Present location British Museum
Identification P&EE 1893 12-28 15-17

The Folkton Drums are a unique set of three decorated chalk objects in the shape of drums or solid cylinders dating from the Neolithic period. Found in a child's grave near the village of Folkton in northern England, they are now on loan to Stonehenge Visitor Centre from the British Museum. A similar object, the Lavant drum, was excavated in 1993 in Lavant, West Sussex.

Their purpose remains obscure. They were given the name "drum" to describe their shape, rather than from any thought they might be percussion instruments.


In 1889, a round prehistoric barrow was opened by the scholar and amateur archaeologist William Greenwell near Folkton in North Yorkshire. Inside, he found a neolithic grave dating to the time of Stonehenge, estimated to be between 2600 and 2000 BC. The remains of several bodies were unearthed, one of whom was a child beside which the three drums were found. The rarity of this find suggests that the child came from an elite group in society. Four years after the discovery, the drums were donated by Greenwell, along with other parts of his collection, to the British Museum.


The three drum-like forms are made of locally quarried chalk and are decorated with stylized human faces and geometric patterns. On the top of the cylinders are a series of concentric circles and two of them have pairs of eyes that schematically denote a human face. The design of the drums is similar to objects made in the Beaker culture and early British Bronze Age. The purpose of the drums is unknown, although the faces may represent important members of the local clan or they may be a type of children's toy that has uniquely survived, when most would have been made of wood. The dimensions of the drums may be significant: archaeologist Anne Teather notes that the circumferences of the drums form whole-number divisions (ten, nine and eight times, respectively) of ten long feet, a widely used unit of measure in Neolithic Britain. Teather explains that the objects could have been a means of achieving standardisation at many locations, or as a teaching aid. The Lavant drum, excavated in 1993, was identified as being analogous to the Folkton drums in 2005 by Anne Teather.

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