WHITBY Jet has been discovered in the grave of a child dating back to Roman times and the fourth century.
The mini black bear with a mouth, ears and eyes is believed to have been left with the youngster around the year 400 to protect it in the ‘after-life’.
There were 29 graves discovered but only one skeleton is thought to have been placed with the Whitby gem.
It is on display in Malton Museum after the remains were found near the north gate of an imperial fault at what is now called Orchard Fields on the edge of town.
The idea of giving teddy bears to children has continued into the modern day but back then they were considered representations of guardians to make sure buried children did not enter the underworld.
Ann Clark, a volunteer at the museum, said: “There are not all that many such examples.
“They were a form of protection rather than what we now regard as cuddly toys.”
Christine Barnard, from Malton Tourist Information Centre, added: “It is an unusual exhibit.
“Jet bears can be found elsewhere but are rare, it is quite an unusual find.”