English metal detectorists have found a Medieval spoon handle depicting a figure of the Wild Man, a hairy, club-wielding legend who existed on the edges of civilization from ancient times. Stories about the Wild Man differ, some say he was a prophet, or that he went mad with grief over the loss of his beloved, or that he was a monster slayer and hero.
Two years ago the metal detectorists found the 15th century AD metallic figure. It was declared a British national treasure at an inquest last week in Ipswich, reports the BBC. The spoon was likely owned by a person of the middle or upper class and may have been a warning about behavior, said Professor Ronald Hutton of the University of Bristol. He told the BBC that the Wild Man was barbaric, chaotic and unrestrained.
Early writings about the medieval European Wild Man are known from ninth century Spain. He is usually shown in paintings or described in literature rather than depicted on objects like the spoon handle.
But stories of the Wild Man go back even further, as long ago as or longer than 5,000 years. Legends and myths from Asia to the Mideast to Europe tell of men who either by choice or force enter the wilderness and live barbaric lives. The Buddha himself lived as an ascetic in the forest for a time after leaving his pampered life as a prince. And Jesus was said to have gone into the wilderness for 40 days and nights of testing by the Devil. Jesus’ cousin John the Baptist is another Biblical wild man, clad in a camel-hair shirt, eating locusts and honey and wandering the wilderness prophesying about End Times.