Celtic Studies Resources

Amebury Archer

Thanks to this story from MetaFilter, I’m elated to see new data about the so-called “Amebury Archer.” Last May Wessex Archaeology discovered the richest Bronze age grave ever discovered in Britain. The grave was discovered during a standard preliminary excavation of a future housing development, about three miles south-east of Stonehenge. Based on the physical attributes of the skelton and the goods buried with him, the 35-45 year old man was an archer, and possibly, part of the Stonehenge construction team. Shortly after the first grave was discovered, excavators discovered a smaller companion grave. The artifacts— well over a hundred of them, including three copper knives, two small gold hair tresses, gold earrings, two sandstone wristguards to protect his wrists from the bow string, 16 flint arrowheads and five pots, are amazing, as is the systemic nature of the burial. The grave dates back to roughly 2300 B. C.

One of the more interesting aspects of the burial is that analysis of the archer’s tooth enamel’s oxegen content and other data indicates that he was originally from Switzerland. This fact adds support to the common scholarly belief that Britain was settled from the Continent.

Today we’ve the first results of more detailed analysis, and the archer is definitely from the vicinity of the Swiss Alps. In addition, we now know that the second skeleton found at the site, that of a younger man, aged 20 to 25, is related to the Archer. It is likely they were father and son. Analysis of his teeth shows the younger man grew up in southern England but may have spent his late teens in the Midlands or north-east Scotland.

This find has enormous potential for learning about Bronze age life; we’ve barely tapped the surface of the data. It will certainly change interpretations about the relationship of Bronze age people to Stonehenge.