Back in 1808 a funny thing happened and as it happened, it happened at Bamburgh, Northumberland.
There were these blokes and they were employed as quarrymen. Their role was to take big stones, bash 'em, and make 'em into smaller ones; not the most intellectually challenging of pursuits, I'll grant you, but it probably kept them fit. In addition, they no doubt compared stones, swapped different kinds of stones, kept collections of stones and took aesthetically pleasing stones home for the missus.
"There you are, luv," they would say. "Feast your eyes on that! Know what that is? That is a piece of Grade 3 travertine, that is! That cost me three bits of quartz and a lump of striated magnesian limestone, that did."
Geordie quarrymen doted on their spouses, back then; they really did.
Anyway, back to the story: these blokes were digging in the ground, looking for stones to bash. However, as they dug down a bit they stumbled upon some Lumpy Pointy Things. They were not stones, but "horns of deer".
"That's a bit weird, like," said one.
And it was weird. But what was even weirder was that the "horns of deer" were attached to "the skulls of deer", which in turn were attached to the entire "skeletons of deer". Someone, it seems, had buried alive a load of deer standing upright in a huge bloody pit. The Head Stone Basher, otherwise known as the foreman, was called for. He in turn called in "an expert", who declared that they were the remains of red deer. How he established this I do not know, but as he was an expert I will not dare to quibble.
Unfortunately, almost as soon as the bones were exposed to the air they started to crumble. As one local historian observed, "they mouldered and fell in pieces". Which was a shame, really. However, two horns – both about three feet in length - stubbornly refused to succumb to such elemental exposure (I know not why) and remained in good condition. The quarrymen carted them off to Bamburgh Castle where they were hung upon a wall. For all I know, they may still be there to this day.
Curiously, the ground in which the deer were found emitted a foul odour of decayed flesh. Now I don't know how long carcasses buried in the ground stink, but my guess is that it wouldn't be for decades or centuries. That seems to indicate that the animals hadn't been there that long, although the rapid decay of the bones after exposure would seem to indicate just the opposite. It’s a mystery, really.
If anyone out there can shed a light on this curious historical enigma, I'd really appreciate it. Three pebbles* and a lump of dolomite** to the first one to crack the mystery.
*Pebbles may contain pebbles.
**This product may contain nuts. The proprietors reserve the right to substitute the dolomite with a high-quality dolomite substitute such a Dolomexine ® or Dolomexetite ®. Please allow ten years for delivery.