Amesbury Archer

The Amesbury Archer is an early Bronze Age man whose grave was discovered in Amesbury during excavations at the site of a new housing development. The grave was uncovered in May 2002, and the man is believed to date from about 2300 BC. He is nicknamed the "archer" because of the many arrowheads that were among the artifacts buried with him, although he was also dubbed the "King of Stonehenge" in the British press due to the proximity of the famous monument three miles away. Had he lived near the Stones, the calibrated radiocarbon dates for his grave and dating of Stonehenge suggest the sarsens and trilithons at Stonehenge may have been raised by the time he was born, [Parker Pearson, M. et al., 2007. The Age of Stonehenge. "Antiquity", 81(313) pg617-639.] although a new bluestone circle may have been raised at the same time as his birth. [James Morgan, [ "Dig Pinpoints Stonehenge Origins"] , BBC News, September 21, 2008.]

His grave had the greatest number of artifacts ever found in a British Bronze Age burial. Among those discovered were: Five funerary pots of the type associated with the "Beaker culture"; three tiny copper knives, more for show than for violent use; 16 barbed flint arrowheads; a kit of flint-knapping and metalworking tools, including cushion stones that functioned as a kind of portable anvil and that suggests he was a coppersmith; and some boar's tusks. On his forearm was a black Stone wrist-guard. A similar red wrist-guard was by his knees. With the second wrist-guard was a shale belt ring and a pair of gold hair ornaments (the earliest gold objects ever found in England) which may suggest he was buried with a second costume.

Research using oxygen isotope analysis in his tooth enamel identified the origin of the man as being a cool alpine region of central Europe. An eroded hole in his jaw showed that in life he had suffered from an abscess, and his missing left kneecap that he had taken a horrific injury that left him with a painful lingering bone infection.

A second male, most probably a relative, as they shared an unusual hereditary anomaly (namely that both had calcaneonavicular coalition (fusing) of the calcaneus and of the navicular tarsal foot bones) was interred nearby. This man however appears to have been raised in a more local climate. The former was estimated to be about 40 at the time of his death, while the latter was in his early twenties. The graves were discovered only a short distance from the Boscombe Bowmen who were excavated the following year.

His grave is of particular importance because of its connections with Continental Europe and early copper smelting technology. He is believed to have been one of the earliest metalworkers in Britain and his discovery supports interpreters who claim that the diffusion of Beaker Culture pottery was the result of population movement, rather than just the widespread adoption of an artifact 'package'.

His skeleton is now on display at the Salisbury and South Wiltshire Museum in Salisbury.



*Parker Pearson, M. et al., 2007. The Age of Stonehenge. "Antiquity", 81(313) pp 617-639.
*Fitzpatrick, A.P. 2003. "The Amesbury Archer" in "Current Archaeology" 184, pp 146-152
*Stone, R. 2005. "Mystery Man of Stonehenge" in "Smithsonian Magazine" August 2005, pp 62–7.
*Miles, D. 2005. "The Tribes of Britain", pp 78-82

External links

* [ Wessex Archaeology: The Amesbury Archer]
* [ Salisbury and South Wiltshire Museum page on the archer]
* [ 24 Hour Museum - Amesbury Archer was an Alpine Settler Say Experts]

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