swissinfo February 11, 2003 8:08 PM
Stonehenge, the 4,000-year-old mysterious ring of ancient stones,
which is one of Britain’s most famous landmarks, may have
a Swiss connection.
Archaeologists say that the remains of a wealthy archer - dubbed the King of Stonehenge - found near the site were from the Alps region.
Tony Trueman, a Wessex Archaeology spokesman, said tests on the chemical components of the archer’s tooth enamel confirmed that he had come from an area which is most probably modern-day Switzerland.
He said that it was clear that the man had been important from the
sheer volume and value of the finds in his grave and this had resulted
in his nickname, the King of Stonehenge.
Among the objects were gold hair ornaments and copper knives, making it one of the richest and earliest Bronze Age sites in Britain. The gold is some of the earliest found in the country.
But how much of a link the archer, found just three miles away from Stonehenge at Amesbury, had to the ancient stone ring is open to speculation.
Archaeologists think that the man, who was skilled in metalwork, might have played an important part in the construction of the site and helped to introduce new skills in the area.
“What we do know is that Stonehenge was built about 3000 BC and sometime around 2400-2200 BC people began to put the stones up and right in the middle of that period the archer came over,” Trueman told swissinfo.
“We know that he was an immensely important and influential
person and he so must have visited Stonehenge and he must have visited
it because he was buried within a short walk of it,” he said.
Trueman said that the Swiss would not have had any problems communicating with the Britons as they all spoke a form of Celtic at that time.
He added that there was a lot of international trade and that cultural links with the continent were strong during the period that Stonehenge was built.
“Look at this man, he was from Switzerland or thereabouts, the copper knives were from Spain and France and he came over to Britain and died there,” explained Trueman.
“We’re looking at an immense movement of people, which we don’t expect when we think of the Stone Age or the Bronze Age. We think of people with clubs living in caves and grunting, but this is much more sophisticated society than people think of.”
Stonehenge is a ring of 20-ton stones on the Salisbury Plain and is a world heritage site. The reason why it was built continues to baffle archaeologists, with some suggesting that it was used as a giant astronomical observatory.
swissinfo, Isobel Johnson and Ramsey Zarifeh