Visit Eden

Plan your perfect Adventure...

English French German Italian Polish Portuguese Russian Spanish

Results Out for Elephant Tooth

Results Out for Elephant Tooth

Earlier in the year Penrith and Eden Museum received a grant from the Cumberland and Westmorland Antiquarian and Archaeological Society and the Friends of the Museum enabling it to carbon-date the elephant's tooth excavated at Penrith Castle in 1921. The results have recently been forwarded from the CHRONO Centre, Queen's University, Belfast and archaeologist Don O'Meara, who prepared the sample forwarded to Belfast, explained their significance. The report gives the dates technically as '1670-1950 cal AD' representing a number of peaks on the radiocarbon curve. 

Five possible dates appear under the '95.4 (2 sigma)' heading, periods when we can say with accuracy the elephant was alive, there being much variation between the first date (1666-1698) and the last (1916-1950). The late date does not of course mean the elephant lived into the 1950s, but that statistically there was enough C14 in the tooth to place it in a modern category. Since we know it was found in the 1920s, we can perhaps exclude the last date, thus leaving us with 1666-1878. There is a big difference between these dates, but on balance it is likely to be a souvenir, probably Victorian, and thrown into the moat for some reason. 

Dr Sydney Chapman, Curator of Penrith and Eden Museum, noted that being of a later date than initially anticipated certainly rules out ideas of a ducal menagerie kept by Richard Plantagenet during his residence at the Castle; the Castle grounds were the scene of community events as early as 1838 (celebrating Queen Victoria's coronation), circuses with elephants are known to have visited the region, including Penrith and, intriguingly in 1872, an elephant called Maharajah  was walked down from Edinburgh (where he had been bought at auction) by his keeper Lorenzo, to Manchester and passed through Penrith. 

For the time being it remains a thought-provoking mystery, albeit, thanks to science, one contained in a narrower window of time.