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19 March 2005
Mysterious skeleton discovered near a church

Villagers are hoping carbon-dating experts can solve the mystery of a skeleton discovered near an ancient West church.  The bones, which could date back 10,000 years, were uncovered when workmen built foundations for a new lightning conductor at St James Church, in Tytherington, south Gloucestershire (England). Now the Bristol and Gloucestershire Archaeological Society has given the local history society a grant of 420 to help pay for carbon dating by experts at Oxford University.
     Retired archaeologist Roger Howell was brought in to oversee the work. "The Iron Age hill-fort lies about 500 metres from the church and a prehistoric burial was reported just outside the churchyard wall when a railway cutting was made for the quarry in around 1900. The body could be from 8000 BCE to just before the church was built, " he said. Because the skeleton is not complete, it is difficult to establish the ancestor's age, gender or cause of death. It is hoped that along with the carbon dating, further research can be carried out at a later date.
     The surrounding countryside has been farmed and mined for millennia. It has a rich history, with Neolithic axe heads turning up alongside other artefacts. In the village, speculation has ranged from the discovery of a Victorian mass murderer to the site of an ancient battle. Mr Howell said: "There is a competition to guess the age of the bones. Everyone is excited about knowing how old they are." Mr Howell refused to be drawn into speculation, but he did suggest the results may bring more questions than answers. "If the bones are prehistoric, it is interesting the church is founded on a prehistoric cemetery, " he said.

Source: Evening Post, This is Bristol (19 March 2005)

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