|19 September 2009
'Whicker Man' tomb to yield Bronze Age secrets
Human remains uncovered at a burial site in the Highlands of Scotland are extremely rare and could provide new information about Bronze Age life, experts say. The site was discovered in February when landowner Jonathan Hampton was using a mechanical digger to clear peat from Langwell Farm, Strath Oykel, in Sutherland. He found a substantial stone cist (tomb) containing parts of a skull, some bones and teeth. Archaeologists believe the body was partially wrapped in animal hide or was wearing furs. A wicker basket lay over its face. The find was reported to police who cleared some of the cist's contents. Part of the skeleton was left and later recovered by archaeologists.
A report from Glasgow University Archaeological Research Unit, which investigated the site, says: "Even in its partial state, this assemblage has the potential to shed valuable light on the person buried and the materials used to dress the body. They may have comprised objects or garments used in everyday life, or that were created especially for the burial." The report also states that tests may be able to establish the sex and age of the individual, while radio-carbon testing will provide a date range for the person's death.
Investigations could also provide information on the materials used at the time, including species of plants and animals represented in the basketry, garments and possible food remains placed with the body. The report states: "Conditions in the cist permitted exceptional preservation and analysis should seek to establish why. It has the potential to tell a great deal about contemporary life and burial practice, through elements of both that are normally lost to natural processes of decay."
Experts from Highland Council have also been involved in investigations of the site. Andrew Puls, a council archaeologist, said: "The site is very significant in terms of the condition of the human remains. "This body was pretty much intact and organic remains were still there. A lot of information can be gleaned from that. There is certainly evidence of the burial practice of the Bronze Age in the area and so well preserved for being 4,000 years old. These things don't normally survive."
There are several known prehistoric sites within a few miles of the burial site. These include a group of three hut circles and another probable burial cairn.
Sources: BBC News (18 September 2009), The Scotsman (19 September 2009)
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