|26 August 2008
Bronze Age skeleton found In Cambridgeshire
A rare Bronze Age skeleton has been recovered at Wicken (Cambridgeshire, England). Archaeologists working next to the Francis Flower quarry discovered the skeleton almost intact, lying buried in a foetal position with an intact pot by its mouth. Only the tiny toe and finger bones had disintegrated in skeleton's the chalk pit grave - the calcium carbonate present in chalky soil is of such a similar chemical composition to bones that it helps to preserve them. The skeleton was found a few hundred metres from a Bronze Age barrow, an early form of cemetery, and carefully lifted out of its shallow grave by archaeologists from Oxford Archaeology East.
Supervising archaeologist Nick Gilmour said the discovery could be up to 3,200 years old, and only 40 skeletons of this type to have been found in the UK. It is unusual to find a Bronze Age skeleton with so few possessions - they were often left with flint arrowheads and daggers, and in some cases buttons made from jet. All, however, have been discovered in the foetal position. "It's the idea of going out of the world the way that you came into it," said archaeologist Tom Phillips, a Witchford-based member of the three-strong team.
Until scientists have analysed the Bronze Age bones it is impossible to say whether the skeleton is male or female, but the skull had a pronounced brow bone and a prominent jaw, which are likely male attributes. It is not known what the Bronze Age person died from but archaeologists can usually tell if from marks on the bones whether it suffered from syphilis or tuberculosis.
Quarry owners Francis Flower Ltd, discovered the Bronze Age site when they paid for an archaeological survey six years ago, but waited six years to remove the skeleton for analysis. The farmland surrounding the skeleton is used to grow crops, and archaeologists said regular ploughing would have missed the skull of the skeleton by millimetres.
Source: Ely Standard 24 (20 August 2008)
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