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More on Dartmoor Bronze Age burial remains X-rayed

Hospital X-rays carried out on Bronze Age items from a remote burial site on Dartmoor have uncovered over 100 beads – indicating the 4,000-year-old remains are of a "very important individual". 

X-ray of the the ancient bag recovered from the burial site on Dartmoor [Credit: This is Devon]
Archaeologists said the results of the special scans were "extraordinarily exciting" and that they were now looking forward to the items being analysed by experts all over the country. 

Last August, the Dartmoor National Park Authority decided to investigate the contents of a stone cist in a peat mound at Whitehorse Hill because the ancient structure was threatened by erosion. 

When they lifted the stones they discovered the burial, which consists of the cremated remains of one person, a leather bag with a textile top, a woven basket-type bag, some kind of animal pelt, an as-yet unidentified "matted object" and two pieces of hazel wood. Jane Marchand, the authority's senior archaeologist, said the scans – carried out by a team from Wiltshire Council's Conservation Service – had revealed that there was a lot more at the site than previously thought. 

"All together we now know the grave goods include over 100 beads, and you can actually see different designs on the X-rays," she said. "There is also a shape that looks like an armband of some kind, with a collection of 50 beads in a cluster." 

The woven bag that has been scanned will now be carefully examined using keyhole surgery so as not to destroy its fragile contents. The X-rays will be used as a map during this process. 

"The sheer number of beads, and the fact that some are made of amber, which would have come in from the Baltic, show that this was a prominent person," said Mrs Marchand. 

Experts from English Heritage have indicated that the teeth and bones at the site belonged to a young person but not a child, and are likely to be male. 

Further tests on the items and the burial site will eventually be able to date them to within 20 years. 

Source: This is Devon [April 28, 2012]

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