Skip main navigation

The oldest known complete digging stick in the world?

We found a number of pieces of digging sticks at Star Carr and one complete one. In this film Mike Bamforth shows you what it looks like.
4.9
This 11,000 year old wooden artefact excavated at Star Carr is the oldest digging stick in the world. The people at Star Carr hunted and gathered, and this artefact would have been used for gathering. Carved down from a willow log about this size in diameter it is designed to be able to go out and dig out the roots and tubers that people would have eaten. You take it by the handle in one hand and you grab the shaft in the other and you kneel down and you use it to dig in the ground to grub out roots and tubers.
31
And this digging stick was found lying in the shallow water at the edge of the lake, tip to tip with the wooden bow, a hunting tool and a gathering tool, lying together at the edge of the lake. They would have been deliberately placed there, perhaps as a ritual act, perhaps decommissioning them and putting them beyond people’s use.

Another exciting discovery was a complete digging stick which again we believe is the oldest known example in the world.

As well as the one that Mike Bamforth shows you in this video, we also found a number of other pieces of digging sticks. As Mike explains, these are not just sticks but they have been carefully carved out of sections of wood.

What was interesting here is that they appear to have been made out of different types of wood – willow, alder, and alder buckthorn, though willow is the most common. Willow is a flexible wood when fresh and this would have been a useful property for a tool like a digging stick but this flexibility would soon be lost, making it easier to break the stick.

Further resources

If you would like to find out more about these artefacts and other wooden artefacts found at Star Carr they have been written up in Chapter 29 of our free, online books.

You can also watch another film on site of Mike examining what appears to be part of a wooden platter which is also written up in Chapter 29.

This is an additional video, hosted on YouTube.

This article is from the free online

Exploring Stone Age Archaeology: The Mysteries of Star Carr

Created by
FutureLearn - Learning For Life

Our purpose is to transform access to education.

We offer a diverse selection of courses from leading universities and cultural institutions from around the world. These are delivered one step at a time, and are accessible on mobile, tablet and desktop, so you can fit learning around your life.

We believe learning should be an enjoyable, social experience, so our courses offer the opportunity to discuss what you’re learning with others as you go, helping you make fresh discoveries and form new ideas.
You can unlock new opportunities with unlimited access to hundreds of online short courses for a year by subscribing to our Unlimited package. Build your knowledge with top universities and organisations.

Learn more about how FutureLearn is transforming access to education