The Carlisle Tridents

On 2009, two 6,000 year old wooden 'tridents' were discovered when Oxford Archaeology North carried out excavations in the River Eden flood plain to the west of the village of Stainton, just before the Northern Development Route was built. These rare artifacts which later known as Carlisle tridents are both over 2m (7ft) long, sturdy and skilfully hewn from a single oak plank. However, researchers still unsure what they were used for. Recently it has been donated by Cumbria County Council to Carlisle's Tullie House Museum. Tullie House is showing the mysterious tridents in its Border Galleries and is inviting people to put forward their theories and ideas.

Interestingly there are 4 other similar tridents exist in the United Kingdom and they have almost identical designs. All of them were found in the 19th century: two in Cumbria (from Ehenside Tarn, an area relatively close to Carlisle which are now displayed in the British Museum), and the other two from a bog in Armagh, Northern Ireland. They would have been heavy, hefty objects, seemingly built for their strength. As they have been submerged and preserved in water-logged ground for nearly 6,000 years, their preservation involved freeze drying and stabilising them by injecting them with a waxy substance to replace the water in the trident’s structure as just letting the wood dry would have damaged them.

The two Carlisle Tridents, their purpose remains a mystery
Andy Dean, Regional Director from Balfour Beatty, said, “The discovery of these tridents was a very important and exciting event during the preparation work for the new road. The project team expected there to be archaeological finds in the vicinity of Hadrian’s Wall and Vallum, however the tridents, tools and flints discovered in the flood plain is of equal national importance”.

Despite detailed study of the Carlisle tridents, the function of these objects still remains a mystery. They do not appear to be well-suited for use as digging forks or fishing spears, or once covered in skin and used as paddles, as was speculated in the case of the Ehenside tridents from Penrith. However, there was no evidence for this at Stainton West, and they do not seem ideally formed for use as paddles.

Andrew Mackay, Head of Collections & Programming at Tullie House said: “These tridents are so rare that they of national importance so it is a great thrill to have them available to show to the visitors of Tullie House. We are very keen to canvass opinion on what they might be so I’d like to encourage everyone to come and see them and let us know what they think.”

Fortean Times Magazine Volume 310: Archaeology - Mystery Tridents;;

Pic Source:
Fortean Times Magazine Volume 310: Archaeology-Mystery Tridents page 18

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