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Strontium isotope on human remains from Stonehenge links with west Wales

Penelitian - The University of Oxford research collaboration published in Scientific Reports suggests that a number of the people that were buried at the Wessex site had moved with and likely transported the bluestones used in the early stages of the monument's construction, sourced from the Preseli Mountains of west Wales.

Conducted in partnership with colleagues at the University College London, Vrije Universiteit Brussel, and the Muséum National d'Histoire Naturelle de Paris, the research combined radiocarbon-dating with new developments in archaeological analysis. While there has been much speculation as to how and why Stonehenge was built, the question of 'who' built it has received far less attention.

Penelitian Strontium isotope on human remains from Stonehenge links with west Wales

Part of the reason for this neglect is that many of the human remains were cremated, and so it was difficult to extract much useful information from them. Christophe Snoeck of the School of Archaeology at Oxford demonstrated that cremated bone faithfully retains its strontium isotope composition, opening the way to use this technique to investigate where these people had lived during the last decade or so of their lives.

With permission from Historic England and English Heritage, the team analysed skull bones from 25 individuals to better understand the lives of those buried at the iconic monument. These remains were originally excavated from a network of 56 pits in the 1920s, placed around the inner circumference and ditch of Stonehenge, known as 'Aubrey Holes'.

Analysis of small fragments of cremated human bone from an early phase of the site's history around 3000 BC, when it was mainly used as a cemetery, showed that at least 10 of the 25 people did not live near Stonehenge prior to their death. Instead, they found the highest strontium isotope ratios in the remains were consistent with living in western Britain, a region that includes west Wales, the known source of Stonehenge's bluestones.

Although strontium isotope ratios alone cannot distinguish between places with similar values, this connection suggests west Wales as the most likely origin of at least some of these people. While the Welsh connection was known for the stones, the study shows that people were also moving between west Wales and Wessex in the Late Neolithic, and that some of their remains were buried at Stonehenge.

LaporanPenelitrian.com Strontium isotope on human remains from Stonehenge links with west Wales

“The recent discovery that some biological information survives the high temperatures reached during cremation (up to 1000 degrees Celsius) offered us the exciting possibility to finally study the origin of those buried at Stonehenge.” Snoeck said.

The results emphasise the importance of inter-regional connections involving the movement of both materials and people in the construction and use of Stonehenge, providing rare insight into the large scale of contacts and exchanges in the Neolithic, as early as 5000 years ago.

Journal : Christophe Snoeck et al. Strontium isotope analysis on cremated human remains from Stonehenge support links with west Wales, Scientific Reports, 02 August 2018, DOI:10.1038/s41598-018-28969-8

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