Discovery of 5,000-year-old skull ‘in fabulous condition’ on side of river sparks mystery as archaeologists claim it would not have survived in water

1 09 2013
  • Skull is  believed to be of a middle aged woman living in 3,300 BC
  • Unbroken  skull found on the banks of the River Avon in Worcestershire
  • Carbon  dating technology places the piece between 3,338BC and 3,035  BC
  • The  ‘exceptional’ find suggests there is an undiscovered burial site  nearby

A 5,000-year-old human skull in ‘fabulous’  condition has been discovered on the banks of a river in Worcershire by a walker  who thought it was a coconut.

Remarkable discovery: Nick Daffern, senior archaeologist with Worcestershire Archaeology holds the 5,000-year-old skull which has baffled experts

Remarkable discovery: Nick Daffern, senior archaeologist with Worcestershire Archaeology holds the 5,000-year-old skull which has baffled experts

Experts said the piece of ancient skull is an  ‘exceptional find’ as the intricate marks  from blood vessels are still visible on the inner surface.

The smooth dark outer side gives only a  tantalising glimpse as to what the person may have looked like, although there  are ‘tentative’ suggestions it may have belonged to a woman in middle age living  in the Neolithic period – around the time Stonehenge was built.

The skull is not only prompting questions  about the person it belonged to, but where it may have come.

A dog walker first stumbled across the skull  piece, which is about 15cms (6ins) in length and 10cm (4ins) in width, earlier  this year but initially thought it was a ball or a coconut shell.

Detectives from West Mercia Police  investigated the scene and contacted experts at Worcestershire Archaeology, who  sent the skull to be radiocarbon dated.

‘When I first saw the skull, I thought it may  have been Anglo-Saxon or Roman but I knew that it was not recent due to the  colour,’ said Nick Daffern, senior archaeologist.

‘But we were all surprised when the  radiocarbon dating put it at between 3,338 BC and 3,035 BC, or about the middle  Neolithic period.’

‘It is so well preserved, it is unthinkable  that this had been in the river for any length of time which begs the question  as to where it has come from.

‘We know of Roman, Saxon and medieval burials  along the river, but this is very rare – it is an exceptional  find.

‘What it suggests is that we have a Neolithic  burial site very near here – we just don’t know where.’

He said: ‘I don’t think it was found where  the remains were buried, I think we’ve got a riverside burial and then flooding  has brought this down the river.

‘Finding that burial site though would be  like finding a needle in a haystack.’Who was neolithic man

Mr Daffern said that without the rest of the  skeleton it was difficult to draw conclusions about the person found, and  certainly there is no clue as to how they met their death.

‘Both myself and a forensic anthropologist  believe it is a woman due to the slightness of the skull and the lack of any  brow ridges although our conclusions are very tentative because we’re dealing  only with the top of a skull,’ he added.

‘There’s no trauma to the bone, and where it  has broken those are natural breaks, nor is there any sign of disease so we’ve  no idea as to cause of death.

‘The natural fusion of the bone in the skull  leads me to believe it may be an older woman, possibly in her 50s, but that is  very tentative again.

‘Unfortunately, it remains a bit of a  mystery.’

The find is a few miles from Bredon Hill,  which has been a scene of human activity down the ages and still boasts the  earthen ramparts of what was an Iron Age hill fort, however finds of Neolithic  remains are rare.

‘Whenever we come across Neolithic remains,  there seems to be a solid dividing line between where they buried their dead,  and where they lived and that is no accident,’ he said.

‘But it is frustrating as an archaeologist  because although we have the physical evidence, we still don’t have the answers  as to why.’

The skull is only the second set of Neolithic  remains to be found in the county, although two large 6,000-year-old ‘halls of  the dead’ were found in nearby Herefordshire this year but without any human  remains present.

Article source: By  Daily Mail Reporter – http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2407337/Discovery-5-000-year-old-skull-fabulous-condition-sparks-mystery.html

Merlin @ Stonehenge
The Stonehenge News Blog

 

 

 

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One response

1 09 2013
HISTOURIES UK

Reblogged this on Wessex Guided Tours.

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