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15 July 2010
Skeleton Blodwen, aged 5,500, comes home in Wales

The skeleton of a woman who lived 5,500 years ago has gone on display in her home town, more than a century after she was discovered. Blodwen is the nickname given to a Neolithic skeleton found on Little Orme in Llandudno, Conwy county (Wales), in 1891. Until now, the remains have been housed at a museum in Bacup, Lancashire. The exhibition forms part of a three-month tomb builders' display at Llandudno Museum.
     The skeleton was discovered in a fissure by an engineer excavating quarry works, who then donated her to the museum in his home town of Bacup. Carbon dating tests carried out at Oxford University have revealed that Blodwen died around 3510 BCE, aged somewhere between her late fifties and early sixties. Orthopaedic examinations show that she was about 5ft (1.52m), powerfully built, and her bone structure suggests she was accustomed to carrying heavy loads, both on her head and in her arms. There are signs, however, that this lifestyle took its toll, with clear evidence of severe arthritis in her neck and knees. At the time of her death she was also suffering from secondary cancer, although it is not obvious whether it was this which killed her.
     Shirley Williams, Museum Education Officer for Llandudno Museum, organised the exhibition to form part of the Festival of British Archaeology, including getting the Bacup Natural History Society to agree to the loan of Blodwen. She said: "At 60 or so, she would almost certainly have been an elder of her community, and someone who would have been looked up to a great deal. She was found midway and above her there was a bronze age spear head but the radio carbon testing found she was actually older than the spear head." Ms Williams said it would be 'great' if she could stay in Llandudno, but said Bacup was very interested in keeping Blodwen.
     Adele Thackray, the field monument warden for north west Wales for Cadw, the Welsh heritage body, said: "During the Neolithic period we start to see a cross-over from a semi-nomadic hunter-gathering society to a more settled, pastoral way of life. Some pig bones found with Blodwen seem to suggest that she was part of this new farming society, and that impression is backed up by isotope tests on her bones which show that she ate more meat and cultivated crops than fish and wild plants."

Source: BBC News (3 July 2010)

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