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The Amesbury Archer: The King Of Stonehenge?

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Bianca
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« on: July 12, 2008, 01:37:08 pm »











                                        The Amesbury Archer: The King of Stonehenge?






By Andrew Fitzpatrick
BBC. UK

An excavation in Wiltshire has recently revealed the grave of a Bronze Age archer, buried with a rich array
of precious metal goods and a quiver of arrows.

Was this the King of Stonehenge?


Andrew Fitzpatrick of Wessex Archaeology takes up the story.






An Early Bronze Age grave



In the spring of 2002 what started as a routine excavation was undertaken in advance of the building of a new school at Amesbury in Wiltshire. By the end of the excavation the richest Bronze Age burial yet found
in Britain had been discovered. The Bronze Age man discovered there had been buried not far from the great temple of Stonehenge. He was a man who owned and could work the new and magical metals of gold and copper. And he had come from what is now central Europe, perhaps around the Alps. Was he a king of Stonehenge?

'Early Bronze Age pottery showed that they were over 2,500 years older than the Roman graves.'
On the site of the proposed new school there was a small Roman cemetery but, it seemed, little else.

In the far corner of the site, though, there were two features that looked different.

Had they been caused by trees being blown over? Or were they something else?

They certainly did not look like Roman graves.

Excavation work started on a Friday morning, and the reason for the difference between the Roman graves and the two other features rapidly became clear. The features were indeed graves, but the Early Bronze Age pottery in one of them showed that they were over 2,500 years older than the Roman graves.

And the grave with the pottery was unusually large.
« Last Edit: July 12, 2008, 01:43:20 pm by Bianca » Report Spam   Logged

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« Reply #1 on: July 12, 2008, 01:48:06 pm »



These golden artefacts may have
been earrings or hair tresses ©








The Amesbury Archer



One of the next finds revealed something unusual - a gold 'earring'.

This type of jewellery may be the oldest type of gold object made in Britain.

These objects are very rare, and they usually occur in pairs and, as it was the Friday of the May Bank
Holiday weekend, it was decided that the excavation of the grave should be completed that day. This
might involve staying on a little bit late on a Friday afternoon, but not, it was thought, very late.

'No one knew...that the grave...was to be the most well-furnished Early Bronze Age burial ever seen.'

What no one knew then was that the grave, the burial of the Amesbury Archer as he has come to be
known, was to be the most well-furnished Early Bronze Age burial ever seen in Britain. The graves could
not be left unprotected, so a 'little bit' late turned into 'very, very' late, as it became clear that this was
a very important find.

The excavation showed that there was probably a timber mortuary building in the larger grave. Because
of this not all the earth had been put back into the grave at the time of the burial, so it seems likely that
a small burial mound or barrow surmounted the grave.
« Last Edit: July 12, 2008, 01:53:05 pm by Bianca » Report Spam   Logged

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« Reply #2 on: July 12, 2008, 01:54:28 pm »



Leather bracers (wrist-guards) found in the grave








Symbols of status



The bones of the man found inside showed that he was a strong man, who had lived to be 35 to 45 years old - a good age to have reached in the Early Bronze Age.

For much of his life he had been disabled as the result of a traumatic injury to his left knee. This had caused an infection of the bone, which would have left him in constant pain, as the injury would have discharged every day of his life, and it would have smelt. The tooth abscess that had penetrated his jaw would have smelt too. But he survived, walking with a pronounced limp and carrying his weight on his right leg.

'What is atypical is the sheer quantity of these grave goods.'

At his death, his mourners buried him in the way that was typical of the time, on his side and slightly curled up, as if he was asleep. The offerings placed beside him - the accoutrements of a hunter or warrior and other symbols of status - are also typical of the time.

What is atypical is the sheer quantity of these grave goods.

Some of the objects hint how he was dressed or adorned when he was buried.

On his forearm was a black coloured sandstone wrist-guard, or bracer. This both protected his arm from the recoil of the bow he would have used when hunting or fighting and acted as a symbol of status. Next to the wristguard was a bone pin, which may have held a cloak, perhaps of leather. A copper knife was also found, partly covered by his torso, this may have been placed by his side, or worn in a sheath on his chest.
« Last Edit: July 12, 2008, 01:58:14 pm by Bianca » Report Spam   Logged

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Bianca
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« Reply #3 on: July 12, 2008, 01:59:55 pm »



Flint Arrowheads







Grave contents



Behind the man's back lay a Beaker pot, boars' tusks and a cache of flints, which were mainly used - and sometimes broken - tools. With them was a black stone, a so-called cushion stone (named after its similarity to some sofa cushions), which was a metalworker's tool. At this time gold and copper were new and exotic materials, just coming into use in Britain.

'...a quiver of hafted arrows had been scattered over his lower body.'

There were many more items - including beakers, boars' tusks, an antler spatula for working flints, another copper knife and more flints - these would have been tools, some in mint condition. Around the archer's waist and legs were 15 arrowheads, suggesting that a quiver of hafted arrows had been scattered over his lower body and legs, but the bow had long since rotted away.At his knees were another sandstone wristguard, a third copper knife, a shale belt ring and two gold 'earrings'.

These finds suggest that some pieces of costume or regalia were placed in the grave by the body rather
than on or over it.

While most of the objects in the grave come from nearby, the objects by his knees come from farther afield.

Chemical analysis of the knife shows that the metal came from Spain, and the gold could be from continental Europe too. The source of the sandstone is over 50 km away and the shale comes from Kimmeridge, which is a similar distance.
« Last Edit: July 12, 2008, 02:03:44 pm by Bianca » Report Spam   Logged

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« Reply #4 on: July 12, 2008, 02:04:52 pm »



The Second Grave Occupant








The Archer's companion



At the time of excavation the other, smaller, grave of the two was thought to be of the same date as a boar's tusk found there, which had been buried with the 20-25 year old man.

It was only later on, when his skeleton was being carefully cleaned that, to everyone's surprise, another pair of gold 'earrings' just like the Archer's was found inside the young man's jaw. The jewellery, one piece tucked inside the other, might have been put in his mouth but as his head rested on his chest, it could have been worn around his neck suspended on a cord.

This man too was of high status.

'To find two individuals...buried so closely to each other, strongly suggests that they were related.'

Study of the two men's skeletons revealed that they shared an unusual trait, but one that was probably unknown to them. Some bones at the top of their insteps that are not normally articulated, are articulated. This would not have caused them any inconvenience, but this trait is very rare. To find two individuals who share it, buried so closely to each other, strongly suggests that they were related.

Radiocarbon dates suggest that the second burial is slightly later than the Archer's, but whether they were brothers, cousins, or father and son, is not known.
« Last Edit: July 12, 2008, 02:08:57 pm by Bianca » Report Spam   Logged

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« Reply #5 on: July 12, 2008, 02:10:23 pm »



The site of Stonehenge at sunrise








King of Stonehenge?



The radiocarbon dates show that the Archer lived between 2,400 and 2,200 years BC.

The burial lies about 5km (2 miles) south-east of Stonehenge and it was at about this time that the massive stone circles, and the avenue leading to the River Avon from the site, were built.

The great temples of Woodhenge and Durrington Walls, both a similar distance away, continued to be used and modified throughout this time.

In the past, burials of this date were considered rich if they contained more than a handful of objects, especially if one of the objects was of copper or bronze, or even gold.

Although the finds buried with the Archer are all of well known types (within the Beaker cultural package
that is found across much of central and western Europe at this time), the number of objects found with
him, almost 100, is without compare.

'Had these two men been part of a ruling élite?'

The burial is also one of the earliest of its type in Britain, some of the finds are of the highest quality, and
the gold is the earliest yet found in Britain. Furthermore the copper knives came from Spain and western France - an indication of the wide contacts of their owner.

Above all, though, the associations between these finds are of particular importance.

Can it be a coincidence that the richest Early Bronze Age burial in Britain, and its companion, should be so close to the great temples of Durrington Walls? Had these two men been part of a ruling elite? Had one of them been a king?
« Last Edit: July 12, 2008, 02:13:28 pm by Bianca » Report Spam   Logged

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« Reply #6 on: July 12, 2008, 02:15:41 pm »



The Archer's copper knives ©








A European élite



As the archaeologists discussed these questions, further surprising facts became clear.

Some archaeologists have argued that, for the period in question, there is no certain evidence for the sort
of social differences that might suggest a ranked society.

The discovery of the burial of the Amesbury Archer and his companion, however, showed for the first time that at this date there were individuals - and perhaps even families - of greater wealth and status than others. That this elite had ties across Europe is shown by the sensational discovery that the Archer comes from central Europe.

The enamel on our teeth stores a chemical record of the environment where we have grown up. It is possible by using Oxygen Isotope Analysis to measure this record. The Archer's teeth show that as a child he lived in a colder climate than that of Britain today, in central Europe, and perhaps close to the Alps.

'He was raised in central Europe but he died near to one of the greatest temples in Europe.'

Much work remains to be done. At the moment we do not know why the Amesbury Archer came to live, and perhaps raise a family, near Stonehenge. Was he brought up in the family of distant allies? Did he arrive in order to seal an alliance by taking a partner? Was he a settler or a pilgrim? Or was he an outsider with the magical skills of alchemy?

We will never know all the answers, but we can say this. He was a strong man, who overcame pain and handicap.

He could work new and exotic metals.

His mourners gave him the richest burial of his time.

He was raised in central Europe but he died near to one of the greatest temples in Europe.

We may not know if he was a king, but it is still an astonishing story.



It is a Bronze Age biography.
« Last Edit: July 12, 2008, 02:22:39 pm by Bianca » Report Spam   Logged

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Bianca
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« Reply #7 on: July 12, 2008, 02:28:26 pm »

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« Reply #8 on: July 12, 2008, 02:36:25 pm »




                                                                     
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