STONEHENGE -- MORE PROOF THAT IT WAS A TRAVEL DESTINATION IN PREHISTORIC TIMES
[In that I co-authored a book called Stonehenge, with Cambridge Don Caroline Malone, for Oxford University Press, I'm always intrigued by new information on the site.]
A wealthy young teenager buried near Britain's Stonehenge monument came from the Mediterranean hundreds of miles away, scientists said Wednesday, proof of the site's importance as a travel destination in prehistoric times.
The teen — dubbed "The Boy with the Amber Necklace" because he was unearthed with a cluster of amber beads around his neck — is one of several sets of foreign remains found around the ancient ring of imposing stones.
The British Geological Survey's Jane Evans said that the find, radiocarbon dated to 1,550 B.C., "highlights the diversity of people who came to Stonehenge from across Europe," a statement backed by Bournemouth University's Timothy Darvill, a Stonehenge scholar uninvolved with the discovery.
The skeleton, thought to be that of a 14- or 15-year-old, was unearthed about two miles (3 kilometers) southeast of Stonehenge, in southern England.
Clues to the adolescent's foreign origins could be found in the necklace, which isn't a recognized British type. But he was traced to the area around the Mediterranean Sea by a technique known as isotope analysis, which in this case measured the ratio of strontium and oxygen isotopes in his tooth enamel.
The teen, whose necklace suggests he came from a rich family, is one of several long-distance travelers found near Stonehenge. The "Amesbury Archer," so-called because of the stone arrowheads he was found with, was buried three miles (5 kilometers) from Stonehenge but is thought to have come from the Alpine foothills of central Europe. The "Boscombe Bowmen," also found nearby, are thought to have come from Wales or possibly Brittany.
It isn't clear precisely what drew these people to Stonehenge, a site which has existed in various forms for some 5,000 years. It clearly had an important ceremonial function, and the area around it is dotted with the remains of prehistoric monuments and tombs. Darvill and others have proposed it might have been an important healing site, drawing pilgrims from across Europe like a prehistoric version of Lourdes.