Archive for September 29th, 2010

Stonehenge boy was from the Mediterranean

Wednesday, September 29th, 2010

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.

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