The artwork on the tiny fragile pendant, uncovered by a research team from the Universities of York, Manchester and Chester, is the earliest known Mesolithic art in Britain. Crafted from a single piece of shale, the subtriangular three-millimetre thick artefact measuring 31mm by 35mm contains a series of lines which archaeologists believe may represent a tree, a map, a leaf or even tally marks.
Engraved motifs on Mesolithic pendants are extremely rare and no other engraved pendants made of shale are known in Europe.
When archaeologists uncovered the pendant last year, the lines on the surface were barely visible. The research team used a range of digital microscopy techniques to generate high resolution images to help determine the style and order of engraving. They also carried out scientific analysis to try to establish if the pendant had been strung or worn and whether pigments had been used to make the lines more prominent.
The research, which is part of a five-year project supported by the European Research Council, is published in Internet Archaeology http://dx.doi.org/10.11141/ia.40.8. The research is also supported by Historic England and the Vale of Pickering Research Trust. The pendant is to be showcased to the public for the first time in a display at the Yorkshire Museum in York on 27 February until 5 May.