Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Stonehenge man

One of the highlights of the new visitor center built on the site of Stonehenge in Wiltshire, England, is the face reproduced from a skeleton found nearby. The Neolithic skeleton, discovered in an elaborate tomb in the 1860s, actually predates the stone monument by 500 years. The facial reproduction (TIME-LAPSE VIDEO HERE) was prepared by Swedish sculptor Oscar Nilsson based on information deduced from the bones by human skeletal biologist Simon Mays from the University of Southampton, U.K. The man was between the ages of 25 and 40, muscular, and had a well-defined chin and jaw. Archaeologist Alistair Pike, also at the University of Southampton, was a bit disappointed that more could not be learned from Stonehenge man's teeth. Isotopes extracted from the teeth and their enamel indicated that he had moved to the area from Wales when he was about 3 years old and that he ate more meat than his contemporaries. There was a little wear, indicating a soft diet, but there were no revelations to be made by analysis of plaque, because his choppers were unusually clean. Pike laments, "If we had been able to analyse his tartar, we could have identified species he was eating by sequencing proteins in trapped fragments, while bacteria could have revealed the health of his gut."

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