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unearthed exhibition features controversial Grimes Graves Goddess

unearthed, a major new exhibition which brings together prehistoric ceramic figurines from the Balkans and Japan for the first time, opens at the Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts, University of East Anglia, Norwich, on Tuesday 22 June and runs until Sunday 29 August. Over 100 ancient figurines from Albania, Macedonia, Japan, Romania and the UK will be on display together with contemporary artworks.

Amongst the works on display will be the controversial Grimes Graves Goddess which is back in Norfolk for the first time since its discovery in the 1930s.

The Grimes Graves Goddess, on loan from the British Museum, is on public display for the first time in over 50 years. It was unearthed by A L Armstrong in Norfolk in 1939 and until the late 20th century was believed to have been 1 of only 3 human shaped objects dated to Neolithic Britain.

In 1991 an investigation into the object was carried out by Gillian Varndell from the British Museum as part of a general reappraisal of the Grimes Graves material. Her findings suggest that the authenticity of the figurine is doubtful for a number of reasons: the excavation was never published; Armstrong's site notebook stopped abruptly on the day of the vital discovery and it was not recorded properly; most unusually, on the day of the find he had directed all other experienced excavators to leave the site; the figurine looked suspiciously freshly-carved, and Armstrong's team included an expert carver (similar objects made from the same chalk rock, such as an Egyptian sphinx, were among his possessions from the dig). Given that there is no known process to date chalk, it may never be conclusively proven. Gillian Varndell is an authority on the Grimes Graves excavations and will be speaking at the unearthed Study Day on 19 June.

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