It’s clear that the item is manmade; even through all the intervening centuries, fingerprints are still visible in its fired clay surface. It also appears to be largely intact. But its purpose and design remain obscure.

The name “Devil of Wickhamshire” or “Wickhamshire Devil” come from two sets of small protrusions that look like small horns depending on the orientation, and an overall “facelike” shape. Alarming newspaper coverage at the item’s discovery in 1857 sent panicked locals into a mob to demand that the evil icon be smashed; a resourceful page from London who had been sent to collect the find gave them instead a worthless potsherd upon which he’d scribbled a menacing face.

With its odd shape, two central holes, and ‘horns,’ arguments for the Devil have cast it as everything from some sort of abstract idol to an incomplete pottery experiment to a simple block and tackle. Even carbon dating has failed to settle the dilemma, with a date of 3510 years before present, ± 100 years–an era long before the Roman invasion for which there are no known records.

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