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A History of the World: Norfolk's top 10 artefacts
Thomas Paine Death Mask
The Death Mask of Thetford's Thomas Paine is one of 10 selected objects

Did you know that an axe found in Norfolk revealed that humans arrived in north-west Europe 250,000 years than previously thought?

It's just one of the interesting facts highlighted by new BBC project A History of the World.

It is looking across the UK to find man-made artefacts that help explain the evolution of man on Earth.

Norfolk Museums and Archaeology Service (NMAS) has helped choose the county's 10 most important man-made objects.

Artefacts chosen include the 700,000 year-old Happisburgh Hand-axe.

Other world-renowned man-made creations which have made it into Norfolk's top 10 include Seahenge, a personal Seal Matrix of Queen Balthild and an Olive Edis self-portrait. All of the pieces are housed in local museums.

"[The hand-axe] is stunning and it's made Norfolk and north-east Anglia the focus of international attention in relation to the study of early man," said John Davies, chief curator at NMAS.

"The particular discovery of this hand-axe was significant because it was found on a beach in north-east Norfolk.

NORFOLK'S TOP 10 ARTEFACTS:
The Happisburgh Hand-axe
Early prehistory
North-east Norfolk
Norwich Castle Museum and Art Gallery
Seahenge
2,000 BC
North-west Norfolk
The Lynn Museum, King's Lynn
The Crownthorpe Hoard
1st Century AD
Central Norfolk
Norwich Castle Museum and Art Gallery
Personal Seal Matrix of Queen Balthild
7th Century AD
Central Norfolk
Norwich Castle Museum and Art Gallery
The Paston Treasure
17th Century AD
Central Norfolk
Norwich Castle Museum and Art Gallery
Thomas Paine's Death Mask
18th Century AD
South Norfolk
Thetford Museum
Antler Comb
Late 18th Century AD
Central Norfolk
Sainsbury Centre for the Visual Arts, Norwich
Snettisham Great Torc
1st Century BC
Central Norfolk
Norwich Castle Museum and Art Gallery
Olive Edis self-portrait photograph
20th Century AD
North Norfolk
Cromer Museum
Flight jacket worn by the pilot of B17 'Fever Beaver'
20th Century AD
South Norfolk
100th Bomb Group Memorial Museum, Thorpe Abbotts

"We were able to date it and it pushed back the known arrival of mankind in the whole of north-west Europe getting on for 250,000 years!

"It's made of flint, and hand-axes are probably the most long-lasting and successful type of object ever created by mankind. They've stayed in use for in excess of one million years."

However, the artefacts chosen are not all beyond living memory.

John feels that some of the most significant objects to come out of Norfolk are those within touching distance in time, such as a 1940s' World War II flight jacket, Fever Beaver.

"This is one that I was thrilled to bits with to get into the shortlist.

"I personally am an enthusiast on Second World War history and Norfolk has a very rich source for anybody who wishes to research that aspect of history.

"In the 1940s Norfolk had a huge injection of tens of thousands of American servicemen. There's a whole range of airfields which are still traceable, but these airfields spearheaded the counter offence against the Nazis.

"We wanted to reflect the connection and the role of the American airmen in this part of the world."

The proud bearer of the Fever Beaver jacket played an important role in Norfolk when the sky over the county was roaring with planes.

"The jacket was part of the aircraft when it broke the record missions. The Fever Beaver plane astonishingly survived the war and completed 100 missions," said John.

"It's a personalised flight jacket and it's very exciting to stand near it.

"My father was in the Second World War and it's that close - the sacrifice that those airmen made. I find it extremely moving."

Intriguing history

Other objects chosen for the BBC project cover not just time, but geographical areas within Norfolk and its materials - the common factor is that they all have a story to tell.

"There were a number of criteria we set with the BBC. Objects had to have a global connection, a regional significance and be man-made. We wanted to reflect the range and the diversity right the way across the county," said John.

"I think Norfolk's really do stand out exceptionally well because of the range we've got here, but what I wanted to get in was this connection with the people.

"All the objects have personal stories. There's also a different range of media used from oil paintings to photos to wood, flint, gold. I think we've been very inventive and clever."

To find out more about Norfolk's top 10 man-made objects and to find out how you can submit your own artefacts, visit Norfolk's History of the World index.




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