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Using microscopes to examine the lines on the pendant

Examining the lines on the engraved pendant. Professor Nicky Milner explains how this was done.
As already seen, the lines engraved onto the pendant are very hard to see with the naked eye but using a range of different techniques it was possible to begin to look at them in closer detail. One of our team, Andy, took on the mission to try and work out the order of the engraving of the lines with the hope that this might tell us more about what the lines mean. In order to do this he mainly used a microscope to look at each line, and for some lines, a very high powered microscope called a Scanning Electron Microscope (or SEM for short). Where two lines met, he tried to see whether it was possible to tell which line was engraved first.
Little by little it was possible to gain a sense of the ordering of the lines and the potential phases of the engravings. It is likely that the first phase of working was the perforation which would have been made using an awl in a drilling action. Next, it is likely that a group of 9 lines were then marked onto the pendant next to the hole using a sharp piece of flint. The longer central groove stretches along the length of the pendant and is deeper than the others. A number of very short grooves have then be made at right angles to two of these lines and we call this a barbed line pattern.
We sometimes see similar engraved motifs to this in European Mesolithic art, such as in Denmark. Following this, there appear to be more grooves placed at right angles to the central line with more barbed lines coming off them. Finally there are a number of other lines at different angles which have been made in the bottom corner which may have been made last, but because they don’t overlap with the main pattern, it is very hard to say. It is of course very difficult to interpret the barbed patterns but given they repeat across the pendant it suggests that the lines may have all been made quite quickly, if not all in one go.
If it had been carried out over a long time period we might see some variation such as inaccurate copying. However, the other area of patterning at the bottom is quite different. Overall, it is impossible to say how long the process of engraving took and how many people did it but it is feasible that at least two people produced the two distinctive sets of lines.
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