Archaeological science and the new Stonehenge visitors centre.

The new and long awaited Stonehenge visitor’s centre opens today and archaeological scientists from the University of Southampton have worked on one of the highlights of the new exhibition – the excavated remains and facial reconstruction of a Neolithic individual from the Winterbourne Stoke long barrow situated about a mile from Stonehenge.

The facial reconstruction, made by Swedish Forensic scientist Oscar Nilsson, imparts an identity and personality to the individual, but we were working on reconstructing his life history. We used state of the art laser sampling methods to measure strontium isotopes in the microscopic growth layers of his tooth enamel.  Strontium isotopes relate to age of the geology where he was living and thus record his movements from birth to about the age of 14.  The results show he was born on an area of much older geology than the chalk of Wiltshire, geology that is found in North Devon, Wales or Brittany, but he moved to the chalk at around the age of 2 or 3. From the age of 9 to 14 he journeyed several times to areas of old geology.  Perhaps he was returning to his place of birth.

Though the exact location of his birth remains ambiguous, the possibility that this individual was born in, and later maintained connections with Wales is intriguing. An early phase of the stone construction at Stonehenge included bluestones that have been shown to come from southwest Wales. The Winterbourne Stoke Neolithic individual predates these early phases of construction of Stonehenge by about 500 years, so perhaps the connection between Wales and the Stonehenge landscape had existed for many centuries before the bluestones were erected.

You can read more in an article in today’s Independent:–did-this-man-lord-it-over-wiltshires-sacred-landscape-9008683.html