|15 August 2009
Prehistoric skeleton found near hillfort in Derbyshire
A prehistoric skeleton has been unearthed by archaeologists during a dig at a Peak District beauty spot. The skeleton emerged as volunteers excavated the site of an ancient hillfort near Monsal Head (Derbyshire, England). The three week excavation at the site, thought to date from the Iron Age (700 BCE - 60 CE), by Longstone Local History Group (LLHG) was aimed at unearthing how and when the ramparts erected. But members were most surprised by the unearthing of a prehistoric skeleton as they excavated in the rock-cut ditch outside the ramparts. Only the thigh bones and pelvis were intact, with the skull and ribcage in fragments.
Ann Hall, Longstone Local History Group project manager, said: "We quickly stopped everything, then archaeologists spent a very careful afternoon excavating the body." The adult body appeared to have been thrown into the ditch with rocks thrown on top of it, possibly as a result of hostilities. The main rampart had been deliberately reduced and much of the stone pushed into the rock cut ditch. During this destruction a human corpse had been unceremoniously thrown in as part of the filling of the ditch with the rampart debris.
Children from Longstone CE Primary School also made the unexpected discovery of hundreds of Mesolithic (10500-3900 BCE) chipped stone artefacts such as scrapers for working hides when they helped excavate test pits. They also found fragments of prehistoric pottery used for storing, cooking and serving food and a flake from a Neolithic stone axe head.
Dr Clive Waddington, director of Archaeological Research Services Ltd, who led the dig, said: "The excavation has been tremendously rewarding because it has supplied significant new information for understanding hillforts in the Peak District, a type of monument which has remained poorly understood in the region." Ann Hall, LLHG Project Manager, said she was particularly pleased that so many locals had given their time and energy to help remove over two metres of soil and rubble to help solve the mystery of how the fort and ditch had been constructed, with 78 volunteers and 160 schoolchildren helping out.
Experts will use radiocarbon dating to establish the skeleton age, sex and possible origins over the coming months. An analysis of the results will be presented at the Derbyshire Archaeology Day at the Pomegranate Theatre in Chesterfield on January 16, 2010.
Sources: Buxton Advertiser, Matlock Mercury, The Star, Derbyshire Times, BBC News (13 August 2009)
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