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A Bronze Age ‘beaker culture’ invaded Britain 4,000 years ago: Intruders forced out ancient farmers that built famous relics such as Stonehenge
- New research carried out one of the biggest ever studies of ancient genomes
- It found that beaker people forced prehistoric Neolithic farmers out of Britain
- DNA analyses found that Britain underwent a 90 per cent shift in its genetic make-up when the beaker folk arrived
One of the biggest ever studies of ancient genomes has found that a Bronze Age ‘beaker culture’ invaded Britain around 4,000 years ago.
The immigrant group, named after the famous bell-shaped pots they carried, likely forced out native Neolithic farmers.
These ancient British farmers were famed for leaving behind massive rock relics, including Stonehenge.
THE BEAKER CULTURE MYSTERY
Beaker folk lived about 4,500 years ago in the temperate zones of Europe.
They received their name from their distinctive bell-shaped beakers, decorated in horizontal zones by finely toothed stamps.
The decorated pots are almost ubiquitous across Europe, and could have been used as drinking vessels or ceremonious urns.
Believed to be originally from Spain, the Beaker folk soon spread into central and western Europe in their search for metals.
But the sheer variety of beaker artefacts across Europe has made the pottery difficult to define as coming from one distinctive culture.
The new study suggests the beaker culture did not always pass from a single migrating entity.
DNA samples from beaker folk in Iberia and Central Europe were found to be genetically distinct.
To me, that’s definitely surprising,’ Dr Pontus Skoglund, a population geneticist at Harvard Medical School in Boston, Massachusetts, who was not involved in the study, told Nature News.
‘The people who built Stonehenge probably didn’t contribute any ancestry to later people, or if they did, it was very little.’
Around 4,500 years ago bell-shaped pottery became popular across much of prehistoric Europe.
The Bronze Age trend has been debated by archaeologists for over a century.
Some argue that it was simply a fashion trend shared by several distinct cultural groups.
But other suggest that an immense migration of ‘beaker folk’ spread across the continent.
The new ancient genome research suggests that both theories are true.
The study, led by researchers at Harvard Medical School, analysed the DNA of 170 ancient Europeans.
They compared this DNA to the genomes of hundreds of other modern and prehistoric Europeans.
Ancient skeletons found in the Iberian peninsula were found to share little genetic connection with bones found in central Europe.
By HARRY PETTIT FOR MAILONLINE
Read the full story n the Daily Mail online
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‘Exciting’ Bronze Age cremation site is unearthed near Stonehenge…by a BADGER: Human remains and 4,000-year-old artefacts found near the animal’s sett
- A badger dug up an urn from burial mound on Netheravon Down, Wiltshire
- Archaeologists then conducted an excavation of the 4,000-year-old site
- Cremated human remains and tools dating back to 2,200BC were found
- Wrist guards and tools suggest the grave may have belonged to an archer
The Stonehenge site has been scoured by archaeologists for decades as they attempt to learn more about the history of the land around Britain’s famous ancient monument.
But the latest discovery at the site has been excavated by a rather unlikely source – a badger.
A Bronze Age cremation site was found after badgers dug into an ancient burial mound on land belonging to the Ministry of Defence at Netheravon in Wiltshire.
Artefacts including Bronze Age tools, a flint knife, pottery and an archer’s wrist guard, dating back to between 2,200BC and 2,000BC, were discovered alongside cremated human remains at a site that sits just 5 miles (8km) from the monument.
Archaeologists spotted the site after a badger unearthed a cremation urn and left shards of pottery lying on the ground around the burial mound.
Richard Osgood, senior archaeologist at the MoD’s Defence Infrastructure Organisation, led an excavation of the site and described it as an ‘exciting find’.
Experts have said the discovery may be of similar significance to the famous Amesbury Archer, which was found in 2002.
Please read the full story and see images of exactly what was found.
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WILTSHIRE, ENGLAND—The 4,000-year-old skeleton of an adolescent has been uncovered by a team from the University of Reading at Wilsford Henge in the Vale of Pewsey, an area located between Stonehenge and Avebury. The child had been buried in the fetal position, and had been wearing an amber necklace. “The skeleton is a wonderful discovery which will help tell us what life was like for those who lived under the shadow of Stonehenge at a time of frenzied activity. Scientific analysis will provide information on the gender of the child, diet, pathologies and date of burial. It may also shed light on where this young individual had lived,” Jim Leary of the University of Reading told BT News. The excavation has also recovered flint blades, decorated pottery, shale and copper bracelets, and a Roman brooch. To read more, go to “Under Stonehenge.”
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MARK THORNTON (Western Australian) finds ancient tales and spirits permeate at prehistoric Avebury.
What’s the connection between a prehistoric English monument older than Stonehenge, marmalade and a Victorian MP?
The English prehistoric site is the Neolithic stone circle at Avebury in Wiltshire. The MP is Sir John Lubbock, who bought it in 1871, and the marmalade connection comes from Alexander Keiller, who made his fortune from the confection and used it to buy the site 20 years after Sir John’s death.
Avebury, encompassing 11.5 hectares, is the largest prehistoric stone circle in the world. Construction was intermittent and spanned hundreds of years but was completed around 2600 BC. It’s 14 times larger and 500 years older than Stonehenge, 30kms to the south.
As with Stonehenge, many people have theories as to why it’s there. One is that it was the focal point of large-scale religious ceremonies and rituals during the Neolithic and Bronze ages. Another is that the shape and alignment of the stones, which have almost geometric precision, suggest it was an astronomical observatory.
Antiquarian Dr William Stukeley first visited the site in the 1720s and after 30 years research, claimed the original ground plan of Avebury represented the body of a snake passing through a circle to form a traditional symbol of alchemy. Other researchers have since said it was a centre of science, learning, pilgrimage, a cultural meeting place for regional tribes, and even a hub for extra-terrestrial activity—though this suggestion was made in the 1960s when hippies with vivid imaginations, and often heightened sensibilities, discovered the site. Sadly whoever built Avebury left no written or pictorial clues.
The site consists of a circular bank of chalk 425 metres in diameter and six metres high, enclosing a ditch that was nine metres deep when dug but after 4600 years of weathering, still has a depth of more than six metres. Archaeologists estimate the ditch would have taken nearly 300 people 25 years to complete and required 200,000 tons of rock to be chipped and scraped away with crude stone tools and antler picks. This suggests a sizeable, stable and well-organised local population lived at the site with a successful agrarian economy able to support the build. However, they had disappeared long before the Saxons built a settlement there 1500 years ago. The word Avebury probably comes from Ava, the Saxon leader at the time.
Inside the ditch there is a circle of 27 sandstone pillars, each weighing up to 50 tons. There used to be three times that many, but over the past 1000 years local villagers used the site as a quarry for building materials. Inside the circle of sandstone pillars are the remains of two smaller stone circles, each originally consisting of about 30 uprights and each about 105 metres in diameter. At the centre of the southern inner circle a tall obelisk once stood surrounded by smaller boulders.
It’s a big and impressive site, and due to the presence of Avebury village, built inside the ring of stones with its church and edged by some ancient large trees, it’s softer and less foreboding than Stonehenge. Nonetheless, it has a strong sense of mystery. Four huge beech trees stand out, each with a spectacular tangle of roots spread over the surface of the chalk bank. Locals call them the Tolkien Trees, claiming J R R Tolkien was inspired by them to create the Ents for Lord of the Rings. Meandering among the stones in the late afternoon under a lowering sky it’s easy to give your imagination free rein.
Avebury is more accessible than Stonehenge, which is now fenced off and requires you to buy your $30 admission tickets— that only give you two hours on site— in advance. Avebury has no admission fee, fences or closing times and you can walk among the ancient stones and mounds as long as you like, soaking in the mystery. Some people even camp among the stones. It’s this ambience that attracted Sir John Lubbock and later marmalade baron and amateur archaeologist Alexander Keiller.
Sir John, a close friend of Charles Darwin, was a visionary whose main political agendas in Parliament included promoting the study of science in primary and secondary schools and protecting ancient monuments. He invented the terms ‘palaeolithic’ and ‘neolithic’ to denote the old and new stone ages. He bought Avebury in 1871 when the locals seemed bent on destroying it by using the ancient stones as building material. Some cottages still have large pieces of the standing stones as massive cornerstones.
Sir John was responsible for the Ancient Monuments Act in 1882, the first piece of legislation that protected archaeological sites, paving the way for English Heritage.
Pious locals had begun destroying the site more than 1000 years earlier with the encouragement of the Christian church, which controversially urged the destruction of pagan symbols, yet was not averse to encouraging the villagers to build a church in the village from those same ‘pagan’ stones. During his tenure and oversight of repairs Sir John discouraged any more building within the site, describing the village and its church to be “like some beautiful parasite (that) has grown up at the expense and in the midst of the ancient temple”.
When he was raised to a peerage in 1900 Sir John chose Avebury for his title, becoming Lord Avebury thereafter.
Keiller bought the site, including the entire village with its then population of about 500, in 1934 with the intention of completing Lord Avebury’s work in restoring it. He knocked down cottages and farm buildings to remove human habitation from within the stone circle and re-erected fallen stones and set concrete markers in places where stones originally stood. In doing so he both upset and impressed villagers, who soon came to accept him as a well-meaning eccentric who brought work to what was a poor community. He spent the equivalent of $4 million in today’s money on the restoration, which includes a magnificent museum. He sold the site to the National Trust in 1943 and his widow donated the museum to the nation in 1966.
The museum is worth a visit on its own. Particularly fascinating is its collection of ancient jewellery made from rare metals and bronze, many featuring semi-precious stones. Although made thousands of years ago, the jewellery has in its perfect simplicity a timeless style and beauty.
Avebury is well worth a visit, not just for itself, but for a number of other prehistoric sites nearby, including Silbury Hill and the West Kennet Long Barrow (a burial mound), both of which are several hundred years older than Avebury. Together they lie at the centre of a collection of Neolithic and early Bronze Age monuments and all are part of a World Heritage Site in a co-listing with Stonehenge.
Salisbury’s exact connection to Stonehenge and the story of Bronze Age Britain will be told in spectacular style at a new gallery set to open next year
The remains of the Amesbury Archer, the Bronze Age man whose arrow-littered grave held the largest
collection of artefacts ever found in a burial from the era, will form the skeletal centre of a much-anticipated new gallery full of Stonehenge stories at Salisbury Museum.
A gneiss mace-head, found by Colonel William Hawley in 1924, and an axe and dagger which were found to match the carvings on stone 53 when they were discovered in 1953, will appear in the Wessex Gallery of Archaeology.
The £2 million space will knock through and combine the astonishing Pitt Rivers Archaeological Collection and the Early Man gallery.
Nottingham-based architects Metaphor will emphasise the theme of discovery in their design, with building beginning this week. Curators say the corridors will explain precisely why the Wiltshire town and its World Heritage Sites play a crucial part in the history of Britain, using timber flooring and glass-reinforced concrete to recreate the feel of the terrain through the centuries.
“By Christmas this year the major construction work will be complete,” revealed museum director Adrian Green, pronouncing himself “absolutely overjoyed” to be creating a “world class gallery of archaeology”.
“We are developing an integrated approach to the interpretation of Stonehenge.
“It means that the Salisbury Museum will be able to create exhibitions directly relating to new displays in the Stonehenge Visitor Centre.
“If you like, we will all be part of the same extended conversation.
“Metaphor have a very impressive CV. Their recent work includes the Holburne Museum in Bath and the Ashmolean, Oxford, in addition to smaller projects such as the refurbishment of the Museum of the Order of St John in Clerkenwell.”
Despite being Grade I-listed and facing Salisbury Cathedral, Green says the museum’s finds from Northern Europe have long been a “best-kept secret”, and expects the museum to “step out of the shadows” when the gallery opens next summer. Antler picks, animal bones, flint and stone tools, chalk plaques and pottery all feature.
The museum has already lent around 250 objects to the visitor centre at Stonehenge.
Full story: : http://www.culture24.org.uk/history-and-heritage/archaeology/megaliths-and-prehistoric-archaeology/art460402#.UqVl6oUD_Ug.twitter
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