A 4,000-year-old Bronze Age skeleton, believed to be that of an adolescent child, has been unearthed by archaeologists today.
The rare discovery was made by a team from the University of Reading, who are excavating Wilsford henge in the Vale of Pewsey, Wiltshire. It is believed the skeleton will help shed light on the lives of those who lived and worshipped at nearby Stonehenge.
The body, around 1.5m in length, was found in a fetal position and was wearing an amber necklace. Efforts will now be made to determine the age and gender of the child and where they were from after the find was made on Tuesday. The Vale of Pewsey, situated between Stonehenge and Avebury, is the subject of a three-year dig but over the last six weeks, archaeologists have focused on Marden henge and Wilsford henge. Built in 2400 BC, Marden henge is the largest henge – a prehistoric monument – in the country.
Dr Jim Leary, from the University of Reading’s department of archaeology, described the skeleton as a “wonderful discovery”. He said: “Finds from the first five weeks of the dig were exciting – but as so often during excavations the best is revealed last. 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.”
The three-year dig, a partnership between the University of Reading, Historic England, the Arts and Humanities Research Council and Wiltshire Museum, aims to transform understanding of the people who lived in the areas surrounding Stonehenge. Findings to date include flint arrowheads and blades, decorated pottery, shale and copper bracelets, amber necklaces and a Roman brooch. Duncan Wilson, Historic England chief executive, said: “Bigger than Avebury, 10 times the size of Stonehenge and halfway between the Stonehenge and Avebury World Heritage Sites, comparatively little is known about this fascinating and ancient landscape.
“The work will help Historic England focus on identifying sites for protection and improved management, as well as adding a new dimension to our understanding of this important archaeological environment.”