Ask most people in the UK, or indeed around the world, what Britain’s most famous prehistoric monument is and Stonehenge is likely to be at the top of most peoples’ lists. The site, located in Wiltshire, England, has captivated people for centuries. In recent years, more and more attention has been given to the landscape around it, which is found to be rich in pre-historic history, but in popular culture is less well known.
Recently, controversy has arisen around the proposed dualling of the A303 and creation of the Stonehenge tunnel, which according to Transport England, will remove traffic from the Stonehenge’s setting, thereby conserving and enhancing the site. On the other hand, opponents to the scheme argue that it would Introduce a massive change to the country’s ‘premier prehistoric landscape’, disturb species such as stone curlew and the great bustard and lower the water table, thereby eradicating the preservation of archaeological remains. Whatever the rights or wrongs of the proposal are, any works will be required to carry out archaeological surveys and this could yield some exciting discoveries.
Such a situation occurred in 2002 when a survey at a development site in Amesbury, just three miles from Stonehenge, revealed an unexpected treasure. Work was taking place where a school was planned to be built when a grave with pottery from the Beaker period, which is dated to around 2,800 to 1,800 BC, was found. Within the grave the archaeologists found the remains of single man, who came to be known as the Amesbury Archer and dubbed by the press as the King of Stonehenge.
The man buried with some of the richest articles from the early Bronze Age. In all, around 100 objects were found in the grave including three copper knives, two small gold hair tresses, two sandstone wristguards (these would have protected his wrist from the bow string), five pots, 16 flint arrowheads, a cushion stone (used for metal working), a bone pin (used to hold together a piece of clothing such as a cloak) and what is thought to be Britain’s first gold objects, dating ack to around 2,500BC. It was because of the worth of the gold that the man was named the ‘King of Stonehenge’ while the items related to archery; the arrow flint heads and wrist guards led to the skeleton being known as the Amesbury Archer.
Parts of the skeleton were tested which showed he was aged between 35 and 45 at the time of his death. From the enamel on teeth it was discovered that he had grown up in central Europe within the Alps region and it is unknown when he moved to Britain. From the skeleton it was possible to tell that he was strongly built but a nasty abscess on his jaw as well has having an injury to his left knee cap, which had been ripped off, probably leaving him with a nasty and lingering bone infection.
The find was important as it was the first example of what is thought to be a person in power. The time of his burial seems to coincide with the erection of the main stones at Stonehenge and it is possible that he had an important role in its creation. Certainly, his mourners clearly considered him important enough to be buried near to (if not in the immediate area of) Stonehenge. An alternative hypontheisis is that the skeleton is that of a pilgrim to Stonehenge who was there to draw on the 'healing properties' of the bluestones.
However, his grave is of particular importance because of its connections with Continental Europe and early copper smelting technology. He is believed to have been one of the earliest gold metalworkers in Britain and his discovery supports interpreters who claim that the diffusion of Beaker Culture pottery was the result of population movement, rather than just the widespread adoption of an artefact 'package'.
His skeleton is now on display at the Salisbury Museum:
These scenes were built by James Pegrum as part of a series of models on British history. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to see them first.
BLOG TO THE PAST
On LEGO, History and other things by Brick to the Past