Lives before and after Stonehenge: An osteobiographical study of four prehistoric burials recently excavated from the Stonehenge World Heritage Site

S. Mays*, D. Roberts, P. Marshall, A. W.G. Pike, V. van Heekeren, C. Bronk Ramsey, E. Dunbar, P. Reimer, B. Linscott, A. Radini, A. Lowe, A. Dowle, C. Speller, J. Vallender, J. Bedford

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

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Abstract

Osteobiographies of four individuals whose skeletal remains were recovered in 2015–16 from the Stonehenge World Heritage Site are constructed, drawing upon evidence from funerary taphonomy, radiocarbon dating, osteological study, stable isotope analyses, and microscopic and biomolecular analyses of dental calculus. The burials comprise an adult from the Middle Neolithic period, immediately prior to the building of Stonehenge, and two adults and a perinatal infant dating from the Middle Bronze Age, shortly after the monument ceased to be structurally modified. The two Middle Bronze Age adults were closely contemporary, but differed from one another in ancestry, appearance and geographic origin (key components of ethnicity). They were nevertheless buried in very similar ways. This suggests that aspects they held in common (osteological analysis suggests perhaps a highly mobile lifestyle) were more important in determining the manner of deposition of their bodies than any differences between them in ethnicity. One of these individuals probably came from outside Britain, as perhaps did the Middle Neolithic adult. This would be consistent with the idea that the Stonehenge landscape had begun to draw people to it from beyond Britain before Stonehenge was constructed and that it continued to do so after structural modification to the monument had ceased.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)692-710
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of Archaeological Science: Reports
Volume20
Early online date22 Jun 2018
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 01 Aug 2018

Keywords

  • Dental calculus
  • Funerary taphonomy
  • Human remains
  • Palaeoproteomics
  • Prehistoric
  • Stable isotopes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Archaeology
  • Archaeology

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    Mays, S., Roberts, D., Marshall, P., Pike, A. W. G., van Heekeren, V., Bronk Ramsey, C., Dunbar, E., Reimer, P., Linscott, B., Radini, A., Lowe, A., Dowle, A., Speller, C., Vallender, J., & Bedford, J. (2018). Lives before and after Stonehenge: An osteobiographical study of four prehistoric burials recently excavated from the Stonehenge World Heritage Site. Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports, 20, 692-710. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jasrep.2018.06.008