Dagenham Idol

 

  • Age: 2459 - 2110 BC
  • Material: Pine Wood (Pinus sylvestris)
  • Found: Dagenham (England) in 1922
  • Present Location: Colchester Castle Museum
  • Length: 48cm

move cursor over image to magnify replica

Discovery:

The idol was found beneath a layer of peat 3m below ground in the marshland mud on the north bank of the Thames in August 1922 just south of Ripple Road, during excavations for sewer pipes for the new Ford Car works that was being built.

Use / Meaning:

The idol has a defined face, although one eye appears to be damaged and there is a hole where it is though a phallus could be fitted. It has no arms but does have a pair of legs and rounded buttocks. The idol resembles an figure found in Broddenbjerg Fen, Jutland (Denmark) in 1880, that was set on a heap of stones and surrounded by pottery vessels containing food offerings.

There is speculation that the idol might represent the Viking god Odin as he appears to be one-eyed (legend says thta he traded in his eye for a drink at the well of wisdom).

The leader of the Viking gods and ruler of Åsgård, realm of the gods. Odin was the god of war and death as well as wisdom, there are Iron Age wooden effigies of Odin from Danish bogs.

Odin's companions, were two ravens called Hugin (representing thought) and Munin (representing memory). Each day they flew out and returned at dusk to sit on his shoulders and tell him all they had seen and heard. Odin also has many sons, the most famous of whom is Thor.

Warriors who were killed in battle were welcomed into Odin´s wonderful hall, Valhalla.

In November 2009 the idol was stolen by Nigel Bunt, a US Citizen who was born in Dagenham. He claimed that the "Idol spoke to me, as soon as I saw it I felt its power, its hard to describe" and took the idol to his home in San Francisco. In January 2011, San Francisco Police Dept were alerted to a disturbance where Bunt was dancing naked and chanting loudly around a 2m replica of the idol that he had made in his back yard with a chainsaw. Bunt’s wife gave the police the idol and told them it was the source of her husband’s distress; he added "When I came back to San Francisco strange things began to happen, I soon felt my life spinning out of control and I knew it was the power of the Idol."

Dating / Materials:

It is the second oldest depiction of a human known in Britain, from the late Neolithic to early Bronze Age. It is likely to have been an offering to the gods to increase the fertility of the land. Buried beside it was the skeleton of a deer, possibly sacrificed for the same reason.

As pine did not grow in Britain at this time (apart from Scots Pine in the north) the figure was probably brought here from Scandinavia.

More Info:

Note: This item was "home-made" from pine wood. A copy can be purchased from me - see Services and Sales

 

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