Barnsley’s Ancient Stone Head – An update

30th August 2021

You might remember reading about an ancient stone head in the Barnsley collections with very little accompanying provenance in an earlier newsletter.

We are pleased to say that, after a public vote, the mysterious stone head is no longer nameless having been given the name of ‘John Stones’ in an online poll.

The team have now installed a new interpretation for this Barnsley curio, which with honest interpretation, states that we think this object is at least mediaeval but is still listed with a ‘date unknown’.

This ambiguity is hoped to change in the coming weeks as several avenues of research have opened, from looking at similar examples with the help of curators and experts nationally as well as The British Museum’s Portable Antiquities Scheme. The service has tracked down a copy of a rare 1960s book on Yorkshire ‘Celtic Heads’ from Bradford’s 1960s curator Sidney Jackson, who painstakingly collated all the known Yorkshire heads at the time. A kind reader of the newsletter also got in touch to say there may be similar heads at a church in nearby Wath, so the team hope to investigate this lead soon.

Even though the stone head looks quite simple in its construction, there is much we can consider deciding upon the age of the object. Experts will look at features such as ears, hair and mouth shape and even just the presence or absence of features can tell us a lot about an artefact.      

This object shows how much behind the scenes work research is sometimes needed and is just one object in collections of thousands of objects. The supporters of Barnsley Museums and Heritage Trust constantly help us to conserve and add to these fantastic finds.

Barnsley’s Ancient Stone Head – An update