Stonehenge boy was from the Mediterranean

Some of the amber beads buried with the skeletonIn 2005, road workers digging an area about 3 miles southeast of the standing stones uncovered the skeleton of a teenage boy who had been buried with a beautiful necklace of 90 amber beads. The fact that he was buried close to the monument and with such a valuable piece of jewelry indicated that he had been someone of importance in life.

From radiocarbon dating we know the young man died 3,550 years ago, a period when Stonehenge had already been finished over 1500 years. Examination of his bones put his age at death to 14 or 15 years old. Now isotope analysis of a sliver of his tooth enamel indicate that he grew up far from where he died, somewhere in the southern Mediterranean.

Boy with the Amber Necklace skeletonProfessor Jane Evans, Head of Archaeological Science at the British Geological Survey, said that recent scientific analyses of the teeth of a teenager buried at Boscombe Down suggest that he ‘spent his childhood in a warm climate typical of Iberia or the Mediterranean. Such warm oxygen values are theoretically possible in the British Isles but are only found on the extreme west coast of south west England, western Ireland and the Outer Hebrides. These areas can be excluded as likely childhood origins of his on the basis of the strontium isotope composition of his teeth.’

The Boy with the Amber Necklace is not the only non-native to be buried in the area. Isotope analysis done several years ago of the Amesbury Archer, whose grave contains some of the earliest gold and copper objects found in Britain, indicated that he had been raised in a colder climate, probably Alpine Germany. He was visiting Stonehenge 800 years before the Amber youth.

The Boscombe Bowmen, who died in 2300 B.C. and were buried near where the Boy with the Amber Necklace would be found, were most likely from Wales, although they may have come from as far afield as Brittany.

We don’t know what brought these people to Stonehenge, of course. They may have been tourists or pilgrims. They may have been traveling for work purposes, in the case of the Boscombe Bowmen, possibly to work on Stonehenge itself.

10 thoughts on “Stonehenge boy was from the Mediterranean

  1. What’s maddening is the little clues that don’t actually tell us anything. Expensive jewelry on a world traveler…someone of means…but why was such a young person there? Is his burial location significant or did they bury him where he died?

    We need a time machine.

    1. For reals. Think of what it would have taken for such a young boy to travel from the southern Mediterranean to Salisbury. Crossing the English Channel is no picnic in a modern boat. He would have been in a wooden dingy.

  2. if you look at stone hendge reconstructed it ha 30 pillars holding the crossmembers up, these are the days of the month, it was the north pole, the moon keeps pumping water (tide)and changes the tilt axes.

  3. It’s more probable that it was just warmer in Britain then. These dates correspond with the bronze age warm period. :blankstare:

    1. The oxygen and strontium isotope results together belie that theory. The oxygen results indicate was born in a warmer area than most of Britain was at that time, and the strontium results don’t match the few parts of Britain that were warm enough.

  4. I was in the UK over Christmas and the story of this boy having come from the Mediterranean cropped up on a TV programme. I live now in Malta, but come from Hampshire and used to pass Stonehenge often on my way to university in Bath. I did wonder at that journey this boy must have made. But then again, in prehistory in Malta, we have clear evidence of the islanders making difficult sea-faring trips to trade with people in Lipari, Pantelleria and the Egadi’ Islands. Malta was home to a unique, singular ‘temple-building’ people, whose culture and cults were not replicated in neighbouring islands like those above, and mainland Sicily. They would have had only a month or two each year to attempt the hazardous voyages in search of their precious obsidian (volcanic glass. We know they did it, but how?! If they could make those trips then I can quite see how a boy could have made it from even an isolated Mediterranean location and then across land to Britain. We sometimes don’t give prehistoric man his due.

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