The Amesbury Archer: 'King of Stonehenge'
The Amesbury Archer lived to be between 35-50 years old. His mourner's buried him in a flexed position on his left hand side and with his face to the north. Buried alongside him were the accoutrements of a hunter or warrior, and other symbols of status. Some of the objects found in the grave hint at how he was dressed or adorned when he was buried. On his forearm there was a slate 'wristguard' or 'bracer', perhaps to protect his arm from the recoil of the bow; perhaps a symbol of status. Next to the wristguard was a bone pin that may have held a leather cloak or mantle. Partly covered by his torso was a tanged copper knife that may have been worn in a sheath on the chest.
Within touching distance of the dead man's face were two Beakers, a spatula for working flints made from red deer, boars tusks, a cache of flints, and another smaller tanged copper knife. Some, perhaps all, of these things are likely to have been in a small bag or container. Many of the flints were tools, including flint knives, scrapers, arrowhead blanks, other items include unused flint flakes and a nodule of iron from a strike-a-light.
Behind the man's back lay another Beaker, more boars tusks, and another cache of flints. In contrast to the cache in front of the Archer, many of the tools had been used. Next to this was a stone, perhaps a cushion stone used in metalworking or a whetstone.
Scattered over the Archer's waist and legs but at a slightly higher level than the other grave goods were 15 barbed and tanged arrowheads. The height at which they were found suggests that they were scattered over the man's lower body and legs, and not placed on the floor of the timber chamber. Two more Beakers lay by the man's bottom and feet. By his knees there was another 'wristguard' or 'bracer', a third small tanged copper knife, a shale ring, presumably a belt ring, and two gold 'basket earrings.' These finds suggest that some pieces of costume or regalia were placed in the grave by the body rather than on or over it.
King of Stonehenge?
last year a metal detectorist was working over a field in the parish
of Woodnesborough, Kent when he received a signal almost at the detection
limit of his equipment. The source of the signal was a rare example
of an earlier Bronze Age gold cup, one of only two known from this country.
Cliff Bradshaw, who has a keen interest in archaeology, followed procedure
impeccably; his find was notified to the Coroner as potential Treasure
under the 1996 Treasure Act. By involving the local Finds Liaison Officer,
Michael Lewis (employed under the Portable Antiquities scheme to record
archaeological finds reported voluntarily), the first step was taken
towards the investigation of the site. An excavation was then carried
out by the Canterbury Archaeological Trust under the direction of Keith
Parfitt with funding from English Heritage.
and subsequent excavation at the find-spot confirmed that there was
a low remnant mound surrounded by a substantial circular ditch. Pottery
and flintwork from the mound material, and from small pits, showed that
there had been Late Neolithic (Grooved Ware) activity on the site. The
cup itself appears to have come from within the mound material with
no evidence of a dug feature apart from an old animal burrow in the
top of which the cup may have been resting; at the time of writing there
are various possibilities: the cup was dragged by agricultural machinery
and burrowing activity from its original burial place on the old ground
surface, or in a grave or other cut feature, or it was inserted into
an existing mound not far from where it was found. All this remains
to be resolved, but we do now have important information about the nature
of the site and its immediate area.
Gillian Varndell & Stuart Needham
Violence is a feature of modern life that we are confronted with on a daily basis, from a variety of media. Yet when it comes to discussing the existence and nature of conflict in earlier prehistory, and particularly the Neolithic period, we often seem reluctant to impart much importance to the phenomena. This can be contrasted with earlier scholars such as Thurnam (1869:185), and later Piggott (1954:47), who saw widespread evidence of interpersonal conflict, human sacrifice and even head-hunting in the British Neolithic. More recently, when violence is discussed at all, the focus is typically on causewayed enclosures such as Hambledon Hill and Crickley Hill, with the good evidence they provide for large-scale conflict (Mercer 1999; Roger Mercer is a notable expection to the more general trend of avoiding or downplaying the topic). Frequent reference is also made to the small number of skeletons with embedded projectile points, such as Ascott-under-Wychwood and, more recently, Penywyrlod (Wysocki and Whittle 2001). While undeniably important, both the architectural evidence from the few causewayed enclosures that seem to have been subjected to attack, and the dramatic evidence from embedded projectile points, do not begin to provide the whole picture of the extent, nature and context of violent conflict at this time. The skeletal evidence is a resource with much to contribute to this discussion, one that has been significantly underutilised.
The purpose of this brief note is to present some of the preliminary findings of an ongoing investigation into the incidence of cranial trauma in earlier Neolithic Britain, c. 4000-3400 cal BC. We focus on cranial evidence for three reasons: 1) crania are the best-represented elements in many collections, 2) the identification of perimortem (occurring at or near the time of death) trauma is usually more straightforward on crania than on postcrania, and 3) evidence of cranial trauma provides a different view of violence to that seen with the projectile point injuries that have until now been emphasised for the British Neolithic.
In total we have examined
some 350 crania from the British Early/Middle Neolithic. Not all of
these are complete, and some are 'composite' crania, i.e., two halves
making a whole. This is less than ideal, but necessary when trying to
calculate rates of cranial trauma in the burial population as a whole.
The type of weapon
indicated for most examples is a blunt instrument of some kind, such
as a club of hard wood, antler or stone. Antler tines could produce
the injuries represented by many of the healed depressed fractures.
The Belas Knap adolescent shows an injury caused by an instrument with
a much broader impact area, while the lozenge-shaped injury on the Coldrum
adult is one of the best candidates for trauma inflicted by a stone
axe. Glancing blows from projectile weapons could also cause some of
the observed injuries.
Rick J Schulting,
Our excavations have focussed on an area 1-2 km to the south-west of Avebury near the village of Beckhampton. The sequence of Neolithic activity here is a long one, beginning with limited occupation and cultivation during the earlier 4th millennium BC, as revealed by John Evans' earlier work on the nearby South Street long barrow (Ashbee et al. 1979). This in turn was followed by the creation during the mid-4th millennium BC of the South Street barrow and the nearby Beckhampton or 'Longstones' long mound. We now know from radiocarbon dates and finds of Grooved Ware on the base of the ditch that our oval enclosure was constructed early in the later Neolithic, around 2900-2700BC. This puts it more or less contemporary with the Avebury henge enclosure (Pitts & Whittle 1992). However, the Beckhampton enclosure and Avebury henge were very different monuments. In stark contrast to the truly monumental scale of Avebury, the Beckhampton enclosure was a slight and ephemeral monument that was to leave little tangible trace in the landscape. The ditch was no more than 0.9m deep and showed no evidence of recutting. It appears to have been systematically backfilled perhaps a century or two after being dug. The circuit of the ditch was interrupted by frequent causeways, with a major entrance (of the order of 40m wide) on the east. It is highly significant that the style of the monument is more akin to earlier Neolithic causewayed enclosures than it is to contemporary henges. The enclosure's builders may deliberately have set out to create an anachronistic monument, perhaps out of respect to earlier sacred traditions, as a process of emulation, or as an intentional act of recreation.
Despite the excavation of 150m of its length (comprising 13 individual stone settings), the chronology of the avenue remains imprecise. It is almost certainly secondary to the enclosure, and may come at the end of the Neolithic sequence in the region, that is around 2500-2300BC. A further pair of stone settings was investigated during 2000, both stones having suffered the common fate of fire-setting and breaking in the early 18th century. We also explored the area immediately around one of the two surviving Longstones ('Adam'). This massive block of sarsen stone was recorded as the sole survivor of a megalithic 'box' or 'cove' by the antiquary William Stukeley; who recorded much of the avenue during a concerted period of stone destruction between 1700-1725. Our excavations showed this setting to incorporate two distinct phases. The first comprised a linear setting of three stones 40m across, forming a simple 'T-shaped' terminal to the avenue immediately to the south-west of the earlier enclosure. Two of the stones were then taken down and their sockets carefully backfilled with chalk. The central stone (set on the centre axis of the avenue) was left in place to form the south-eastern side of the cove. With splayed sides, the cove enclosed an area of c.15 x 10 m; the individual stones standing 2.5-3.5 m above ground and weighing up to 60 tonnes each. Unfortunately, all the stone sockets had been extensively disturbed during the phase of stone destruction recorded by Stukeley, but sufficient survived of one to show that the stones were held in place by a packing of small sarsen boulders. From the stone sockets and fills of later destruction pits came several thousand of pieces of worked flint, much of it debitage from rather ad hoc working.
Almost invariably associated with henges and stone circles, cove settings are known elsewhere, for example at Stanton Drew in Somerset, Mount Pleasant in Dorset, and locally within the Avebury henge (Burl 1988). However, none of these approach the scale of the Longstones Cove, nor do they form 'closed' four-sided settings of this kind. The Longstones Cove might, as Burl has suggested for others, reference the format of earlier megalithic burial chambers (ibid., 7). Alternatively, its closed format could have drawn upon memory of the earlier enclosure - a transformation from earth to stone that would parallel the lithic conversion of certain late Neolithic wooden monuments, such as the Sanctuary at the end of the West Kennet Avenue. Either way, themes of time, transformation and a desire to make reference to the past, seem to be deeply implicated in the Beckhampton monuments.
Joshua Pollard and Rick Peterson
OF PPS (PROCEEDINGS OF THE PREHISTORIC SOCIETY)
At the fiftieth birthday AGM of the Society in 1985, Bob Chapman raised several questions for future editors to ponder when they select articles for inclusion in our Proceedings (Chapman 1985, 27). In particular, he repeated Graham Clark's concerns that "the proportion of later prehistoric papers, particularly on the Bronze and Iron Ages, had increased at the expense of papers dealing with the Palaeolithic and Mesolithic" (Clark, 1959), and he queried whether the tendency in Vols 46-50 to concentrate on British sites would result in a reduction in overseas interest in PPS. Seventeen years on, it may be instructive look again at the contents of recent PPS volumes and try to find some indicators of the impact that these volumes have had on the archaeological community, both in the UK and abroad.
Balance between Early and Later Prehistory
Thus we can confirm that our Proceedings occupy a central place in
this undergraduate textbook, with the largest number of citations.
TIME ARCHAEOLOGY - RESEARCH WEEKEND
Forty or more members
of the Prehistoric Society gathered at the historic house that is Dilliington,
set amongst its formal gardens and Somerset farmland. The event opened
with Dr Roger Jacobi of the British Museum, who gave a rumbustious doorway
into the Palaeolithic and Mesolithic eras of over 500,000 years which
was going to envelop us for the next 48 hours. He explored why no hominid
presence had been found in the UK between 130,000 and 60,000 BP although
evidence had been found in France and Northern Europe. Boxgrove it seems
it not the oldest evidence of hominids in UK - Wesbury and East Anglia
show hominid presence some 200,000 earlier at 700,000 BP.
Valerie A Moore,
IRON AGE RESEARCH SEMINAR, UNIVERSITY OF DURHAM, 22-23 MARCH 2002
The Later Iron Age
Research Seminar, which followed a similar meeting on the earlier Iron
Age in December 2001, provided an opportunity for archaeologists working
on the subject to consider some of the issues and challenges set out
in the Prehistoric Society's recent report, Understanding the Iron Age:
an agenda for action. Historically, the later Iron Age has tended to
receive more attention than the earlier part of the period, partly because
the evidence itself is so much more abundant, and partly because of
the striking changes that occurred in south-east England in the period
immediately before the Roman conquest. The Research Seminar provided
an opportunity to move on beyond the South-East and examine change in
other areas such as south Wales and the Marches; East Anglia and the
Fens, and the north of Scotland and Ireland. Papers that did focus on
southern Britain showed how a range of sites and artefacts which have
been thought of as 'typical' of the later Iron Age can now be re-interpreted
to reveal more complex social and cultural patterns. The deliberate
chronological emphasis on the 'later' Iron Age (from c.400BC-AD100 and
beyond) rather than on discrete 'middle' and 'late' Iron Ages helped
make the point that the idea of these as distinct entities has limited
meaning beyond south east England, whilst at the same time bringing
the long time scale of many key processes of change in Britain during
the later first millennium into sharper focus.
Tom Moore and Colin Haselgrove
AWARDS AND NEWS
The Baguley Award
The Europa Prize
Grants and Funding
Jones, the most charismatic of prehistorians of Australia, died in
Canberra, 19 September 2001, just a few weeks after his retirement
from Australian National University. He was buried in Bungendore with
fitting ceremony, in a high grassy valley that echoes the upland of,
say Breconshire. Rhys was a Welshman to his patriotic heart, as well
as a naturalized Australian, and he planned with his retirement to
start working also from the new archaeology department at the University
of Wales in Newport; but that was not to be.
For more information contact
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