For the benefit of those who are averse to reading my blog Distant Past
, here's a copy of the latest entry:
Yesterday I attended a stimulating one-day forum at St Anne's College Oxford: Rethinking the The Bronze Age and the Arrival of Indo-European in Atlantic Europe.
The most unexpected and exciting paper was the mischievously-titled "Dead sea connections", which of course had nothing to do with the Dead Sea. Wessex Archaeology staff reported on a fascinating site discovered in recent years on the Isle of Thanet on the south-eastern tip of England. It was probably an early landing site for arrivals in the Copper or Early Bronze Age (2400-2000 BC), who buried their elite in round barrows (burial mounds) on the highest point of the coast line overlooking what is now Pegwell Bay. At the time the Isle of Thanet really was an island. The sea channel between Thanet and the Kent mainland silted up in modern times.
As often found elsewhere, later burials cluster close to one of these barrows. This later cemetery was used from the Late Bronze Age (9th-11th centuries BC) through to the Middle Iron Age (4th century BC).
The team used isotopic analysis to find out where these people came from. Of the 22 skeletons tested, eight were local, seven were from Scandinavia, probably southern Sweden or Norway, five were from South-West Iberia and the origins of the remaining two could not be identified. Interestingly the earliest phase (Late Bronze) was the most mixed: local, Norse and Iberian. In the Early Iron Age the mixture was local and Iberian. The Middle Iron Age mixed local and Norse. Does this pattern reflect trade routes? Or was this a clan ritual site, to which people returned periodically? Ancient DNA might be able to distinguish between those two possibilities, but the cost of testing (£12,000 per bone or tooth) was prohibitive.
Wessex Archaeology has an online exhibition on the excavation at Cliffs End Farm, which can also be downloaded as pdf file.