Badger Uncovers Cremation and Grave Goods of Bronze Age Archer Near Stonehenge
A curious badger has inadvertently helped archaeologists to unearth remains of an archer or person who made archery equipment sometime between 2,200-2,000 BC in a burial mound at Netheravon, Wiltshire. Some of the artifacts found in the grave include a bronze saw, an archer's wrist guard, and a copper chisel. These goods were located along with cremated human remains.
Netheravon, Wiltshire is five miles (8.05 km) north of the famous archaeological site Stonehenge. Atlas Obscura reports that the artifacts were noticed by Tom Theed after a badger dug up the cremation urn and left sherds of pottery lying on the ground near the burial mound.
Selection of ceramic sherds. (WSHC)
Mr. Richard Osgood, from the Ministry of Defence (MOD)'s Defence Infrastructure Organisation, told the BBC that it was “an exciting find. It was utterly unexpected. These are wonderful artefacts from the early Bronze Age, about 2,200-2,000 BC.”
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While it was a welcome find, Mr. Osgood also noted that burrowing animals are sometimes archaeological risks. Luckily this badger did not create too much damage; however, and it was safely transported to a new home for its role in discovering the burial mound. As he told the Huffington Post, "We would never have known these objects were in there, so there's a small part of me that is quite pleased the badger did this... but it probably would have been better that these things had stayed within the monument where they'd resided for 4,000 years."
Copper chisel with bone handle. (WSHC)
The badger did show that his archaeological skills are lacking however, and the Wiltshire and Swindon History Centre (WSHC) said in a blog post:
“Luckily the badger has not caused too much damage to the objects and evidence of badger activity is only visible in the surface of some fragments of the ceramic sherds. It is probable that the ceramic vessel had remained intact in the ground and unfortunately the badger dug its tunnel through the middle of it, causing the vessel to break into over 200 sherds.”
Sherd showing badger claw marks. (WSHC)
Despite the badger destruction, the WSHC likened the style and importance of the artifacts to those found with the nearby Amesbury Archer.
Mr. Osgood also noted the quality of the artifacts and the importance they would have had in life 4,000 years ago. He told the Daily Mail:
“The artefacts tell us that those who put the individuals cremated remains into the urn believed them to have been of some significance. These are fine items and there are a lot of them. The flint knife is exquisite. Although highly speculative, it is just so tempting to view these as possibly the grave goods as someone connected with manufacturing archery equipment. At this point in the Early Bronze Age, some 4000 plus years ago, the trappings of archery were important within the burial assemblage although this more frequently includes arrowheads. To get all these items together is very unusual indeed. Another antalizing element is that, in life, the person whose cremated remains we found would have probably known what many of the secrets of nearby Stonehenge were.”
Western Daily Press reports that the unexpected discovery has led to a full archaeological dig which uncovered shaft straighteners for straightening arrows and pieces of pottery. The excavation included the aid of injured military personnel and veterans. These and the artifacts dug up by the badger will go on display at Wiltshire Museum in Devizes later this year.
Wrist guard and shaft straighteners. (WSHC)