This week we took delivery of seven deer skulls we will be using to recreate the Star Carr head-dresses.
The originals are twenty-one adult red deer skull with antlers altered to be worn as head-dresses. They all date to the Early Mesolithic, about 9,500 years old, and were discovered at the site in the Vale of Pickering, North Yorkshire, England. They may have been worn by hunters as a disguise, but it is more likely that they were part of a costume worn on special occasions, perhaps during religious ceremonies.
The present day location of these fantastic items reflects the way that the ownership of our past is played out. The remains are spread between four different institutions, at the geographically close Scarborough Museum, the excavator was based at Cambridge University, hence some material remains at The Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, these important items are at the British Museum as artefacts and and at the Natural History Museum as animals!
Images of the British Museum head dresses are available here.
We are recreating the head-dresses to explore how they were created and used, and to give people the chance to experience ‘becoming deer’ for ceremony or hunting.
The skulls are altered by trimming the skull, inserting holes and thinning the antler. The head-dresses were probably attached by the cord through the holes, and there is evidence that the head-dresses were coloured with ochre. The archaeological head-dresses were made from full grown animals, our examples are all young stags so will be slightly less impressive.
The first stage of working on the deer skulls involved cleaning and disinfecting ready for handling.