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Britain's Stonehenge king may be Swiss



By: Jason Hopps - Reuters

Tuesday, 11 February 2003

Excavation of the so-called Amesbury Archer

The construction of Britain's ancient landmark, the towering megaliths at Stonehenge in southern England, may have been supervised by the Swiss, or maybe even the Germans, archaeologists have announced.

Scientists studying the remains of a wealthy archer found in a 4,000-year-old grave exhumed last year near Stonehenge announced earlier today that he was originally from the Alps region of central Europe, probably modern-day Switzerland, Austria or Germany. "He would have been a very important person in the Stonehenge area and it is fascinating to think that someone from abroad - probably modern-day Switzerland - could have played an important part in the construction of the site," said Dr Andrew Fitzpatrick of Wessex Archaeology, a private archaeology services company in Salisbury.

The so-called Amesbury Archer was found in a grave about five kilometres from the landmark, buried with 100 items, including gold earrings, arrowheads, copper knives and pottery. Researchers hailed the find - dating from about 2300 BC and the oldest known grave in Britain - as one of the richest early Bronze Age sites in Europe. The archer has been dubed 'The King of Stonehenge' because of the lavish items found in his grave, including some of the earliest gold objects ever found in Britain.

It was tests on the enamel of his teeth that revealed he was born and grew up in the Alps region. "Different ratios of oxygen isotopes form on teeth in different parts of the world and the ratio found on these teeth prove they were from somebody from the Alps region," said Tony Trueman, a spokesman for Wessex Archaeology. "It is important proof that culture imported from the continent helped bring Britain out of the Stone Age."

Stonehenge, built between 3000 BC and 1600 BC, is a ring of 20-tonne stones on Salisbury Plain and attracts up to one million visitors annually. Celebrations at the site during the summer solstice - the longest day of the year in the northern hemisphere - attract thousands of revellers, including the Druids who believe Stonehenge was a sacred temple.

Article originally appeared here:

http://www.abc.net.au/science/news/stories/s781364.htm




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