In 1889 an archaeologist found three chalk cylinders in a child’s grave in Yorkshire. They were exquisite and also inexplicable. Along the sides was delicate latticework, along the top patterns of concentric circles.
Ever since they have been one of the most enigmatic artefacts of Stone Age Britain. What were the Folkton Drums for? Who used them? And why? Among Neolithic mysteries, perhaps only the construction of Stonehenge has provoked more speculation.
Which is appropriate, because archaeologists now suggest that the answer to one may lie in the other. They claim that the 4,000-year-old cylinders, presumed to be merely decorative, are actually a Stone Age tape measure — used to plan out the great stone circles built by our ancient ancestors.