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19 November 2005
Ancient Man's lost Secrets on test

Technology from the 21st century will be used to unlock the past to one of Yorkshire, England's most important archaeological finds from the Bronze Age.
     Gristhorpe Man, one of the best preserved examples of human remains buried in a hollow oak tree trunk, will leave Scarborough's Rotunda Museum in specially constructed boxes for Bradford University's Department of Archaeological Sciences. The latest technology will be used to try to extract samples from Gristhorpe Man's remains for analysis to establish how the Bronze Age man died as well as gathering more detail about his lifestyle and diet.
     The skeleton still has some remains of the man's brain and teeth which have been preserved since he died 3,500 years ago. Tests will also be conducted on an animal skin the corpse was wrapped in, as well as a whalebone, a bronze dagger and food which was buried in the coffin. Curator of museums at Scarborough Council Karen Snowden said: "He is one of the jewels in our crown, and because he has been here so long everyone remembers him if they visit Scarborough. While we will not be able to put a name to him, we are hopeful of finding out a great deal more about his past through this scientific research. It is wonderful to think that after all these centuries, we might be able to answer some of the questions which have remained unanswered up until now."
     The remains were discovered on July 10, 1834 in an ancient burial mound near Yorkshire's East Coast by members of the Scarborough Philosophical Society, which organised funding for the Rotunda Museum. The bones were blackened by a reaction of the iron that is in the water with the tannin in the bark of the (tree trunk) coffin, giving the skeleton its distinctive appearance today.
     The Bronze Age man is thought to have come from a wealthy background, as it was rare for someone to be buried in a tree trunk coffin and he was also almost 6ft tall - indicating that he had a good diet.
     Dr. Nigel Melton, an honorary research fellow at the Department of Archaeological Sciences, will be working alongside Dr. Janet Montgomery and Dr. Andrew Wilson to conduct the research. Dr. Melton said: "It was a sensation when he was found in the 19th century, and it is still such an important find even today. I am terribly excited because I am originally from Scarborough. I can remember coming to the museum as a boy and standing with my nose pressed against the glass looking in awe at the skeleton."
     The museum will close on January 8th of next year for a 3 million redevelopment before re-opening again in the late spring of 2007. The skeleton will remain at Bradford University until the revamped museum re-opens.

Source: Yorkshire Post Today (17 November 2005)

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