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As the summer solstice dawned over Stonehenge, archaeologists revealed that some of the men who built Stonehenge have been found.
Their grave, which dates to the beginning of the Bronze Age, about 2,300 BC, was found at Boscombe Down near to Stonehenge. Many of the stones at Stonehenge were brought from Wales at about this time and chemical tests on the teeth of the men have shown that they were almost certainly born in Wales.
Archaeologists are calling the men ‘the Boscombe Bowmen’ because of the flint arrowheads in the grave. Dr Andrew Fitzpatrick, of Wessex Archaeology, said: “In medieval times, people believed that the stones could only have been brought to Stonehenge by Merlin the Wizard. For the first time we have found the mortal remains of one of the families who were almost certainly involved in this monumental task.”
The grave is unusual as it contains the remains of not one, but seven people. There were three children, a teenager and three men. The skulls of the men and the teenager are so similar that they must be related.
The Bowmen’s teeth provided the clue to where they came from. As the enamel forms on children’s teeth, it locks in a chemical fingerprint of where they grew up. Tests by scientists of the British Geological Survey on the strontium isotopes in the Bowmen’s teeth show that they grew up in a place where the rocks are very radiogenic. This was either in the Lake District or Wales. The men’s teeth also all have the same pattern, showing that they migrated between the ages of 3 and 13. Dr Jane Evans of the British Geological Survey said: “This provides a remarkable picture of prehistoric migration.”
The grave was found last year during road improvement works being carried out by QinetiQ, the science and technology company that operates the Boscombe Down airfield. Tests on the finds have just been completed by Wessex Archaeology. The QinetiQ employee and archaeologist Colin Kirby, who made the discovery said:
On the second day of the excavations, I noticed human in the side of a water pipe trench. On investigating the spoil from the trench, fragments of beaker pottery and an arrowhead emerged. This was very exciting as it showed that the burial was probably Bronze Age and may be linked to the Amesbury Archer. I immediately informed Wessex Archaeology.