The Amesbury Archer is 4300 years old. It is the richest burial of this date ever found in Britian.
“This is of the utmost significance” (The British Museum).
The richest Early Bronze Age burial in Britain has been found by astonished archaeologists. The grave of a mature man was found near Amesbury, Wiltshire and contains far more objects than any other burial of this date, about 2,300 BC.
He has been identified as an archer on the basis of stone arrow heads and stone wristguards that protected the arm from the recoil of the bow. There were also stone tool kits for butchering carcasses, and for making more arrowheads if needed.
According to Dr Andrew Fitzpatrick, Project Manager for Wessex Archaeology, what makes the find unique is the quantity and quality of the finds. ‘As well as the archery equipment, the man had three copper knives and a pair of gold earrings. We think that the earrings were wrapped around the ear rather than hanging from the ear lobe. These are some of the earliest kinds of metal object found in Britain. They were very rare and the metals they were made from may have been imported. The fact that so many valuable objects have been found together is unique. This association is the most important thing about the find’.
The grave was found in the course of excavations on behalf of Bloor Homes and Persimmon Homes South Coast. Ron Hatchett, Strategic Land Director of Bloor Homes said ‘we have worked closely with the archaeologists and have altered our plans to protect known archaeological sites’. Paul Bedford Senior Land and Planning Manager for the Persimmon region added ‘it is impossible to predict a unique and exciting find like this.’
The area around Stonehenge is famous for its rich Bronze Age burials. Andrew Lawson, Chief Executive of Wessex Archaeology, points out that this burial is several hundred years earlier than any of them. ‘It raises the question of who this archer was and why his mourners buried so many valuable things with him?’
The Archer’s Companion
Another grave was found close to the Archer’s. Here archaeologists found the skeleton of a man aged between 25 and 30 dating from same time as the Archer.
What the archaeologists did not expect was, as the skeleton was being cleaned in the laboratory, the discovery of a pair of gold hair tresses inside the man’s jaw. The new hair tresses were in the same style as the Archer’s.
Only half a dozen finds of these earrings have ever been made before in Britain, so it was remarkable that the graves of two men with these symbols of power were found side by side.
An analysis of the bones later showed that he and the Archer were related as they both had the same unusual bone structure in their feet – the heel bone had a joint with one of the upper tarsal bones in the foot. This proves they were related, and it is likely they were father and son, though this is not certain.
Analysis of the oxygen content of the enamel in their teeth showed that while the Archer had grown up in the Alps region, his relative grew up in southern England. He may have spent his late teens in the Midlands or north-east Scotland.