View Full Version : Discovery of 5,000-year-old skull 'in fabulous condition'

09-02-2013, 01:33 PM
Discovery of 5,000-year-old skull 'in fabulous condition' on side of river sparks mystery as archaeologists claim it would not have survived in water
Skull is believed to be of a middle aged woman living in 3,300 BC
Unbroken skull found on the banks of the River Avon in Worcestershire
Carbon dating technology places the piece between 3,338BC and 3,035 BC
The 'exceptional' find suggests there is an undiscovered burial site nearby
PUBLISHED: 19:11 GMT, 30 August 2013 | UPDATED: 13:50 GMT, 31 August 2013

A 5,000-year-old human skull in 'fabulous' condition has been discovered on the banks of a river in Worcershire by a walker who thought it was a coconut.
Experts said the piece of ancient skull is an 'exceptional find' as the intricate marks from blood vessels are still visible on the inner surface.
The smooth dark outer side gives only a tantalising glimpse as to what the person may have looked like, although there are 'tentative' suggestions it may have belonged to a woman in middle age living in the Neolithic period - around the time Stonehenge was built.
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Remarkable discovery: Nick Daffern, senior archaeologist with Worcestershire Archaeology holds the 5,000-year-old skull which has baffled experts

Signs: The upper piece of skull's grey appearance indicated it was from ancient times. Carbon dating confirmed it is about 5,000 years old

The skull is not only prompting questions about the person it belonged to, but where it may have come.
A dog walker first stumbled across the skull piece, which is about 15cms (6ins) in length and 10cm (4ins) in width, earlier this year but initially thought it was a ball or a coconut shell.

Detectives from West Mercia Police investigated the scene and contacted experts at Worcestershire Archaeology, who sent the skull to be radiocarbon dated.

'When I first saw the skull, I thought it may have been Anglo-Saxon or Roman but I knew that it was not recent due to the colour,' said Nick Daffern, senior archaeologist.

'But we were all surprised when the radiocarbon dating put it at between 3,338 BC and 3,035 BC, or about the middle Neolithic period.'

'It is so well preserved, it is unthinkable that this had been in the river for any length of time which begs the question as to where it has come from.

'We know of Roman, Saxon and medieval burials along the river, but this is very rare - it is an exceptional find.

'What it suggests is that we have a Neolithic burial site very near here - we just don’t know where.'
He said: 'I don’t think it was found where the remains were buried, I think we’ve got a riverside burial and then flooding has brought this down the river.

'Finding that burial site though would be like finding a needle in a haystack.'
Mr Daffern said that without the rest of the skeleton it was difficult to draw conclusions about the person found, and certainly there is no clue as to how they met their death.

'Both myself and a forensic anthropologist believe it is a woman due to the slightness of the skull and the lack of any brow ridges although our conclusions are very tentative because we’re dealing only with the top of a skull,' he added.

'There’s no trauma to the bone, and where it has broken those are natural breaks, nor is there any sign of disease so we’ve no idea as to cause of death.
'The natural fusion of the bone in the skull leads me to believe it may be an older woman, possibly in her 50s, but that is very tentative again.

'Unfortunately, it remains a bit of a mystery.'
The find is a few miles from Bredon Hill, which has been a scene of human activity down the ages and still boasts the earthen ramparts of what was an Iron Age hill fort, however finds of Neolithic remains are rare.

'Whenever we come across Neolithic remains, there seems to be a solid dividing line between where they buried their dead, and where they lived and that is no accident,' he said.

'But it is frustrating as an archaeologist because although we have the physical evidence, we still don’t have the answers as to why.'
The skull is only the second set of Neolithic remains to be found in the county, although two large 6,000-year-old ‘halls of the dead’ were found in nearby Herefordshire this year but without any human remains present.


The people of the Neolithic, the last part of the Stone Age, were the first farmers in Britain.
It was an era of development in human technology when people lived in small tribes.
Spanned from 4,000- 2,500 BC.

Neolithic societies were more hierarchical than hunter-gatherer cultures in general.
Mud brick houses coated with plaster started appearing around this time. The growth of agriculture made permanent houses possible.

Doorways were made on the roof, with ladders positioned both on the inside and outside of the houses.
The people cultivated the land, built farmsteads, erected giant stone circles and chambered communal tombs.
As recently as May 2012 it was discovered that they were responsible for inventing raving.

In gatherings equivalent to the Glastonbury Festival, men of the age would spend several days eating, drinking and dancing.

Herds of cattle were slaughtered to provide food and dancing would continue late into the night during the summer months.