I have created this diorama as a backdrop to an exhibition of c.2500 year old bones found at BROWNE’S HOLE in the Mendip Hills.
The cave was excavated in the 1950s by the Browne family, enthusiastic cavers who carefully stored and recorded a mass of animal and human bone.
Amongst the animal bones are those of spotted hyena, brown bear, woolly rhino, wild horse and many smaller creatures such as the mountain hare pictured above.
Professor Danielle Shreve of Royal Holloway University analysed the material recently. She suggested that the cave was probably used at different times as a den by hyenas and bears.
2500 years ago the North Sea and English Chanel did not exist; Britain was joined to the European land mass. The landscape was open grassland or steppe and the climate colder than that of today. Browne’s Hole lies in a steep-sided narrow valley where some trees: birches, low-growing willows and perhaps a stand of Scots pine might have grown.
Tim Peak at the Amesbury Archer Primary School in 2007
As Tim Peak returns to earth I am about to go to press with my book about the Amesbury Archer’s adventures on his journey to Stonehenge. Long before Tim became an astronaut and travelled to the International Space Station I painted his portrait alongside that of the prehistoric Archer on the wall of the Amesbury Archer Primary School. Two extraordinary men, one who made a journey into the unknown 4300 years ago and the other an army test pilot who would one day travel into space.
The Amesbury Archer on the wall of the school
Funding for the work was given by Boscombe Down Airbase, where Tim was a test pilot. The Army wanted one of their men to be the subject of the painting to represent a contemporary equivalent of the Archer.
I met Tim when he came to the school for a morning. He’d drawn the short straw and had been dispatched to pose for me and the children while we made drawings. He joined in our workshop with humour and good grace as the children went to town with orange crayons for his hair!
Later I photographed him with his helmet and then went on to paint his portrait, first on paper and then onto the wall. As I worked I talked to the children who were full of questions about the Amesbury Archer: Where did he come from; Why did he make such a long journey? Someone needs to write a book about about his adventures I thought…
I’ve been working towards writing and drawing this book for a long time. At last the story is finalised and the artwork is well under way. I hope to have it finished later this year. Aimed at children aged around 9 – 12, it’s in the comic strip genre, with speech bubbles and a fast-moving story.
In 2002 a team from Wessex Archaeology, led by Professor Andrew Fitzpatrick, excavated the burial of a prehistoric man on a hillside at Amesbury, about two miles from Stonehenge. In his grave they found copper daggers, flint arrowheads, gold hair tress rings, beaker pots and much more – around 100 objects in all. One of the man’s ribs and his left kneecap were missing. Visit http://www.wessexarch.co.uk for more info.
A day or two later I had a ‘phone call from Andrew. Wessex had put out a press…