When I first picked up a terra cotta cone in the ‘sheep field’ on Snape Warren, the object should have immediately suggested to me that it was ‘art’, particularly as there were clearly other cones, whole and broken, lying around in the same area. In other words, it was probably the cones as an assembly rather than an individual cone which was significant. One step further and you arrive at Anthony Gormley’s Field for the British Isles, an assembly of some 40,000 terra cotta figures ranging from 8-26 cms high, each with two holes near the top representing eyes. The original, simply called ‘Field‘, was made in Mexico in 1991; the British variant was made on Merseyside in 1993. It toured extensively in the UK; I saw it in a redundant train shed on the south bank of the Tyne in Gateshead. The impact of some 40,000 pairs of unblinking eyes all looking up at you at the same time was considerable.
I am not suggesting that the artist behind our Snape Warren cones copied Gormley; but, if we are right in attributing an artistic origin to our Snape Warren cones c2007, it is likely that an awareness of Gormley’s Field and its several imitations and variants was in the air. Was it sufficiently so to bring about the serendipitous co-incidence 24 years later of curious clay cones, formerly ‘art’, a National Trust flock of rare breed sheep, and a temporary, part-time voluntary shepherd who just happened to be an archaeologist and painter?
You couldn’t make it up.