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18 March 2007
New tests add years to Scottish skull find

For more than a century the skull has lain in storage as part of the national museum collection. But now radiocarbon testing has established the remains - discovered in a stone box grave in Edinburgh (Scotland) by 19th century workmen - are hundreds of years older than anyone realised. It has become clear the skull belonged to a Bronze Age man who lived in the area which almost 4000 years later became Juniper Green.
     The skull was found in a carefully-constructed cist, or stone box grave, during excavations in 1851. It was handed over to archaeologists at the time and ever since has been kept in a collection which became part of the National Museum of Scotland. However, no-one realised the significance of the find, until now, with little known about the precise age of the skull. The discovery of its great age came after it was chosen to take part in a 500,000 international research project using modern dating technology. It was one of 250 skulls being studied as part of the Beaker People Project being run between Sheffield and Leipzig universities and the Museum of Scotland.
     Radiocarbon dating was carried out on the skull by the museum and the results revealed the man died between the ages of 40 and 55 around the year 2150 BCE. Carbon and nitrogen isotope analysis at Leipzig University in Germany has revealed more about the man, including that his diet was high in animal protein, although he didn't eat fish. Work is continuing at the university in the hope of shedding more light on Bronze Age life in the area.
     The discovery has already established the likelihood of a previously unknown settlement in the Juniper Green area. Dr Alison Sheridan, head of early prehistory at the National Museum of Scotland's archaeology department, said: "We are certain that he lived in the area - he was bound to have. We know that Bronze Age cemeteries and settlements were pretty close but nobody has found the settlement yet."
     The revelation about Juniper Green's history is an important addition to the understanding of Edinburgh's Bronze Age past. It means that it joins a growing number of sites where Bronze Age activity has been noted, including Cramond, Traprain Law, Broomhouse and Huly Hill.

Source: The Scotsman (14 March 2007)

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