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The box of Mesolithic bones were rediscovered at the Somerset Heritage Centre near Taunton.           Source: Cotswold Archaeology

9,000 Year Old Bones of Oldest Residents of England Found

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Researchers in England have just proven that some human remains that were believed to be from the Roman era are in fact significantly older and come from the Middle Stone Age . The bones are from the Mesolithic period and they are thought be among the oldest ever unearthed in the British Isles .

The remains were found in two cardboard boxes and they are from seven people, from different age groups. Originally, these bones “were discovered in a cave in Cannington Park Quarry near Bridgwater, Somerset, in the 1960s”, reports the BBC.

It appears that they were deposited in the two boxes and not studied until they were rediscovered at the Somerset Heritage Centre near Taunton. The remains were found by researchers from Cotswold Archaeology.

9,000 Year Old Remains

Carbon dating was used to determine the age of the bones. Astonishingly they were found to be 9,000 years old. Sharon Clough, of Cotswold Archaeology, an osteoarchaeologist stated that “the results were very surprising as the bones were originally thought to be Roman and from a cemetery near to where they were discovered in 1964” according to the Daily Mail . No one apparently identified how old they were when they were unearthed.

The remains have turned out to be some of the oldest known humans to inhabit England. (Cotswold Archaeology)

The remains have turned out to be some of the oldest known humans to inhabit England. ( Cotswold Archaeology )

It appears that the remains from 9,000 years ago, according to Clough, were “transferred between museums, including London's Natural History Museum before they were misplaced” reports the Daily Mail . For some reason, the remains were not recorded with the rest of the objects and bones unearthed at the cave. This was because they were not seen as historically significant or were simply overlooked.

The Human Bones Are From the Earliest Inhabitants of England

The remains of the seven are all from the Mesolithic period also known as the Middle Stone Age, which “is an ancient time period (8,000 BC to AD 2,700)” according to Sky Statement . This was an era that took place between the Palaeolithic period and the Neolithic. The Middle Stone Age was a time when many innovations in toolmaking and society took place.

The bones found include those from adults and juveniles. According to Clough “two thigh bones, from an adult and an under 18, were found to be more than 9,000 years old” reports the Daily Mail . The remains found in the boxes in the Heritage Centre are from some of the oldest people to live in what is now England. It appears that the remains came from a Middle Stone Age cemetery.

The people of the Mesolithic developed polished stone tools and microliths that allowed them to manufacture serrated edged weapons and tools. The had adzes, which are a type of hatchet, for working with wood.

Mesolithic artifacts, from the same period as the bones. (Vaneiles / CC BY-SA 3.0)

Mesolithic artifacts, from the same period as the bones. (Vaneiles / CC BY-SA 3.0)

There is archaeological evidence that they hunted deer, boars, fowl, and judging by the number of fish hooks found, were fishermen. It seems that the people from the Middle Stone Age engaged in seasonal migration and lived in small communities of around two dozen people.

Reconstruction of a Mesolithic hunting camp site. (Wessex Archaeology / CC BY-SA 2.0)

Reconstruction of a Mesolithic hunting camp site. (Wessex Archaeology / CC BY-SA 2.0 )

Cheddar Man Skeleton

The discovery of Mesolithic era human remains is very rare. This find is being compared in importance to the discovery of Cheddar Man which is “Britain’s oldest complete skeleton” reports Sky Statement . The skeleton was found in Gough’s Cave, the largest in Cheddar Gorge, in 1903.

It had been studied very little until recently and it is now believed to be that of a male who lived in the Mesolithic period. Remarkably, the DNA of the dead man revealed that he was the ancestor of many of the people still living in the area today.

The bones that were found in the Heritage Centre do not come from complete skeletons. While Cheddar Man is a complete skeleton, the remains found in the latest discovery, consist of only some fragments of skulls and pelvic bones.

The upper body of Cheddar Man. (Geni / CC BY-SA 4.0)

The upper body of Cheddar Man. (Geni / CC BY-SA 4.0 )

However, they are expected to add to our knowledge of some of the earliest inhabitants of England. Tragically the site where the 9,000 year old bones were found was demolished by quarrying, over 20 years ago. It is possible that many other Middle Stone Age remains and even complete skeletons were destroyed.

Top image: The box of Mesolithic bones were rediscovered at the Somerset Heritage Centre near Taunton.           Source: Cotswold Archaeology

By Ed Whelan

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