This human figurine was excavated on April 21, 1968, during the construction of the Volkerak locks near the town of Willemstad (province of Noord-Brabant). It was found among the roots of an oak tree, eight metres below water level, in a thin layer of peat. The latter proved to have been a favourable environment for preservation.
The figurine was cut from a piece of oak wood and was put among the tree’s roots on purpose. Only the statuette’s head is rendered in a naturalistic manner: the skull, the large eyes, the long nose and the open mouth. With the aid of the radio carbon dating technique it has been dated 5300 B.C., a date matching the age of the peat layer.More of these representations were found in the northwest of Europe at a later date, allaying doubts about the statuette’s authenticity.
Various suggestions have been made regarding its significance. Possibly, it is just a child’s doll, but it may also have served a socio-cultural function, in ritual acts for instance. Besides, societies of hunters/gatherers had a shaman (priest/sorcerer), who used all manner of attributes to make contact with the spiritual world. In Scandinavia particularly richly ornamented objects have been found that can hardly have served as objects for daily use. The question remains whether this also holds true in the case of the ‘Willemstad man’.