4,000-year-old coffin found buried in golf course

An accidental discovery took the community of Sheffield, England, by surprise: during construction work on a golf course in the city, a wooden coffin, built at least 4,000 years ago, in the Bronze Age, was found.

Inside the coffin were the remains of a man and a rare ax, which researchers said had only 12 others in the UK. The discovery was made in 2018, but has only been released now.

According to archaeologists at the University of Sheffield, the tomb shows evidence that this was the burial of a highly regarded person, given the effort involved in building the coffin.

“The organic matter was preserved in the humid, airless conditions inside the hollow trunk of the tree – this can tell us about the plants that were chosen to cushion the body and even the time of year this man was buried,” says Hugh Willmott, researcher at the university.

For archaeologists, the ax seems more a symbol of authority, of the social hierarchy of the owner than a tool used in everyday life.

Ax would be a symbol of authority for the man who was buried - York Archaeological Trust - York Archaeological Trust

Ax would be a symbol of authority for the man who was buried

Image: York Archaeological Trust

The three meter long and three meter wide coffin was constructed from tree trunks and inside it leaves were used as a lining to support the body of the person who was buried.

“My family farmed the land here for years before we opened the golf course. I could never have imagined there was another world buried under the fields,” said Mark Casswell, owner of Tetney golf Club.

According to the university, there are around 65 early Bronze Age wooden coffins known in the UK, as they rarely last that long.

After a year of refrigerated storage during the evaluation, the casket was transferred to York archaeological trust, where it is undergoing preservation work (see below). Once the work is completed the items will be transferred to The museum Collection.