In 1975, during a large-scale re-allotment project in the West-Frisian polders, an exceptional discovery was made in the vicinity of the Dutch village of Hoogkarspel. In the soil used for filling in a ditch, an amateur archaeologist found materials hailing from a bronze-age settlement. Among the earthenware fragments, the flint stone and the pieces of bone a number of animal figurines of baked clay came to light.
Three of these figurines represent cattle, one of them a good-sized bull. The fourth figurine is clearly a pig. The other fragments are not easily recognizable. These miniatures are made of clay mixed with earthenware, sand and fine gravel and were probably manufactured locally. The earthenware was fired at a low temperature, but as some pieces show traces of burning on the fractured surfaces, the question arises whether the figurines were fired deliberately.
Excavations in the direct vicinity of the site proved that the figurines date back to the Middle or Late Bronze Age. They were found on a typically domestic location and the other finds seem to point in that direction as well. This puts the little animals in the context of a bronze-age farm. However, it also raises some interesting questions. Who made these animals, adults or children? Were they fired deliberately or did they happen to end up in the fire for another reason? Were they broken toys or ritual objects? Or perhaps both? In any case, we do not have an unequivocal answer to these questions as yet.