Archaeologists from Network Archaeology Ltd have teamed up with Lincolnshire Live to reveal more about the incredible artifacts from a dig along part of the route of Lincoln's Eastern Bypass.
|Stone corbel in the Romanesque style, 1140-1160 AD [Credit: Working Pictures Ltd]|
"It’s an alien!" - that was the first response of almost every member of the team when they first saw this week’s Find of the Week emerging from the mud.
But a photograph hastily emailed to our lovely back-up team of specialists provided a more sensible identification: it’s a carved stone corbel in the Romanesque style, probably from a church or chapel, and likely to date between 1140 and 1160 AD.
It shows the head of a devilish beast, with large staring eyes. Between its wide-open jaws, is a person’s face.
The stone has partly weathered away but it is still possible to make out the mouth and eyes of this poor victim, having a last look at the world before being swallowed.
This kind of corbel is usually known as a ‘grotesque’, and this particular type is called a ‘beakhead’: many of them look like nightmarish birds, with wide open beaks.
But ours is definitely a beast, with cute pointed ears at the back of its head.
|The dig at the Lincoln bypass [Credit: Lincolnshire City Council]|
The image would have been used by the priests in their sermons to graphically show the fate that awaits unrepentant sinners.
Beakhead corbels were particularly in vogue in the century or so after the conquest of Britain by the Norman French in 1066.
Before then, most village churches were simple wooden buildings, but William the Conqueror’s invasion force and their descendants set about rebuilding in stone, driving home the message that they were now the new landowners. Our example is particularly finely sculpted.
The tradition of depicting devils in architecture carried on into the next century, and included, of course, everyone’s favourite little devil: the Lincoln Imp, perched on one of the corbels of the Angel Choir in the cathedral.
We are left with the question of what this corbel was doing in the mud of the Witham valley, at Washingborough.
Was it part of one of the monastic grange buildings that we know were nearby, or was there a working area here, where stone-masons produced pieces to order from the limestones of the Lincoln Cliff?
Author: Paul Whitelam | Source: Lincolnshire Live [February 21, 2018]