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Stonehenge Man

20 December 2013

The new visitor centre at Stonehenge has opened and includes the remade face of Stonehenge Man – see www.independent.co.uk/news/science/archaeology/before-stonehenge-did-thi… … One is never sure of headlines at The Independent – is this a case of idealogical prejudice? Ignoring the banality of the headline, attributing it perhaps to a young journalist rather than one that is a bit crusty at the edges, the article concerns a skull from a nearby long barrow dated to around 3500BC. This has been remade and is an exhibit in the visitor centre, a quite striking face that will interest lots of tourists. An analysis of the teeth (nitrogen isotopes) has found that the individual, who was in his early thirties when he died, had lived both in Wiltshire (a chalk environment) and in the west, probably Wales. Not only that, he was fixed to one region but throughout his early life appears to have moved from one region to the other on a regular basis. He is thought to have been a member of the Neolithic elite as he was the only burial in the particular barrow. There is no evidence from his bones of malnutrition or hard physical labour and this led to the supposition he was part of an elite minority. Neither is there evidence of a violent end to his life, or the kind of bone structure associated with a warrior class. He lived in the 4th millennium BC, prior to the construction of Stonehenge (at around 3000BC). We have a link between the stone circle and Wales via the bluestones. Archaeologists don't appear to be fond of the erratics theory and stick like glue to the bluestone transportation theory – it draws the crowds. So, we have Stonehenge Man travelling between Wales and Wiltshire on a regular basis, possibly as part of a pastoral society, and we have those enigmatic stones – so does two and two come to five?

There are some 350 known long barrows in Britain and 50 per cent of these had no burial whatsoever. They are blind. A quarter of them have just one burial and the other  quarter had between five and fifteen persons interned in them. Long barrows were primarily associated with the catch-all word, ritual, invariably used by archaeologists when they don't know.

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