This toy hedgehog, found in a child’s grave at Stonehenge, is proof of what we have always known – children have always loved to play.
The chalk figurine was probably a favourite possession of the three year old, and placed next to the child when they died in the late Bronze Age or early Iron Age, around 3,000 years ago.
Archaeologists who discovered the grave, where the child was laying on his or her side, believe the toy – perhaps placed there by a doting father – is the earliest known depiction of a hedgehog in British history.
The diggers were working to the west of Stonehenge in what is known as the Palisade Ditch when they made the remarkable discovery last month in the top of the pit in which the child was buried.
Archaeologist Dennis Price said: ‘It is not difficult to envisage the raw emotion and harrowing grief that would have accompanied the death of this child.
‘Amid the aura of gloom that surrounds Stonehenge, it comes as a beam of light to find a child’s toy lovingly placed with the tiny corpse to keep him or her company through eternity.
‘I’m not aware of hedgehogs having any significance in pagan tradition so the discovery must rank as yet another unique and baffling aspect of one of the most famous and instantly recognisable prehistoric monuments on Earth. To my mind, the hedgehog possesses a real charm and an innocent beauty. ‘
Dr Joshua Pollard, of the Stonehenge Riverside Project, said: ‘Representational art from this period is very rare and so far as I’m aware, if the identification is correct, it’s the only known prehistoric depiction of a hedgehog from Britain.’
Fay Vass, of the British Hedgehog Preservation Society, said: ‘We are very excited to hear about this find. It shows humans have taken hedgehogs to their hearts for a very long time.’