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Tests reveal Amesbury Archer ‘King of Stonehenge’ was a settler from the Alps

The man who may have helped organise the building of Stonehenge was a settler from continental Europe, archaeologists say.

The latest tests on the Amesbury Archer, whose grave astonished archaeologists last year with the richness of its contents, show he was originally from the Alps region, probably Switzerland, Austria or Germany. The tests also show that the gold hair tresses found in the grave are the earliest gold objects found in Britain.

The grave of the Archer, who lived around 2,300BC, contained about 100 items, more than ten times as many objects as any other burial site from this time. When details were released, the media dubbed the Archer “The King of Stonehenge”.

The grave was found three miles from Stonehenge, near Amesbury in Wiltshire, last May during an excavation by Wessex Archaeology, based nearby at Salisbury, in advance of the building of a new housing scheme and school.

The Archer was obviously an important man, and because he lived at the same time that the stones at Stonehenge were first being built, archaeologists believe he may have been involved in its creation.

Tests were carried out on the Archer’s teeth and bones and on the objects found in the grave, which included two gold hair tresses, three copper knives, flint arrowheads, wristguards and pottery. They show that he came from the Alps region, and that the copper knives came from Spain and France. This is evidence of the wide trade network that existed in the early Bronze Age. The gold dated to as early as 2,470BC, the earliest gold objects found in Britain.

Stonehenge was begun in the late Stone Age, around 3,000BC, as a ditch and a bank enclosing an open space. In about 2,300BC – approximately the time the Archer died –the world-famous stones were erected, the large 20-tonne Sarsen stones from the Marlborough Downs nearby and the smaller four-tonne Bluestones from Preseli in west Wales. How the Bluestones were transported 240 miles (380 kilometres) is not yet known.

The importance of the Archer and his grave are detailed in a programme 'King of Stonehenge: A Meet the Ancestors Special' on BBC2 on Wednesday February 19 at 9pm.

Dr Andrew Fitzpatrick, of Wessex Archaeology, said: “This was a time of great change in Britain – the skills of metalworking were being brought here from abroad and great monuments such as Stonehenge were being built.

“We have long suspected that it was people from the continent of Europe who initiated the trade that first brought metalworking to Britain, and the Archer is the first discovery to confirm this.

“He would have been a very important person in the Stonehenge area and it is fascinating to think that someone from abroad – probably modern day Switzerland – could well have played an important part in the construction of Britain’s most famous archaeological site.”

The Archer was an example of the spread of the Beaker culture from the continent, marked by a new style of pottery, the use of barbed flat arrow heads, copper knives and small gold ornaments.

Tests on the bones carried out by Wessex Archaeology’s own staff showed that the Archer was a man aged between 35 and 45. He was strongly built, but he had an abscess on his jaw and had suffered an accident a few years before his death that had ripped his left knee cap off. As a result of this he walked with a straight left which swung out to the side of him, and suffered from an infection in his bones which would have caused him constant pain.

Other tests on the enamel found on the Archer’s teeth could not reveal how long he had lived in Britain, only that he must have lived in the Alps region while a child. He was most probably from what is now Switzerland, although it is possible he could have come from areas of Germany near Switzerland or Austria.

Also found at the site was a second skeleton of a younger man, aged 20 to 25. Two gold hair tresses were found lodged in mud in his jaw. Bone analysis showed he and the Archer were related and it is likely they were father and son. Analysis of his teeth show he grew up in southern England but may have spent his late teens in the Midlands or north-east Scotland.

Other tests were carried out by the British Museum, the National Museums of Wales and Scotland, the British Geological Survey, the National Trust Museum at Avebury and the Universities of Durham, Exeter, Oxford and Southampton. They showed that the Archer wore animal skins fashioned into a cloak and was buried with pottery made locally, perhaps specially for his funeral.

The History and Geography of Human Genes
(Princeton University Press)
by L. Luca Cavalli-Sforza, Paolo Menozzi, and Alberto Piazza
Winner of the 1994 R.R. Hawkins Award

Time magazine
Nothing less than the first genetic atlas of the world.... [This] landmark global study flattens The Bell Curve, proving that racial differences are only skin deep. Read more

 

Va Pensiero - Copyright 2004- In association with Amazon.com

 


Read:
THE MOLECULE HUNT

adventures in bio-archeology

ANCIENT EGYPT-INDIA
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History of Technology

Is this Monument Telling the Truth ?



This monument in downtown Boston is at odds with a recent Congress resolution, granting to Antonio Meucci - not Alexander Bell - moral rights for the invention of the telephone .... more
 
Improbable Research

The 2005 IG Nobel Prizes were awarded in a ceremony at Harvard University.

THE 2005 AWARDS:

CLICK HERE !

 

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