On May 3rd 2002, archaeologists from Wessex Archaeology found the grave of a man dating back to around 2,300BC, the Early Bronze Age in Britain, at Amesbury in Wiltshire, England. The grave lay three miles south-east of Stonehenge.
The grave contained the richest array of items ever found from this period. Around 100 objects were found, including the complete skeleton of a man, three copper knives, two small gold hair tresses, two sandstone wristguards to protect his wrists from the bow string, 16 flint arrowheads and five pots.
This makes the grave the richest Bronze Age find in Britain - there are ten times the usual number of finds from other graves. The gold dated to as early as 2,470BC and is the earliest found in Britain. It seems likely that the objects were buried with the man, dubbed by the media the ‘Amesbury Archer', or the ‘King of Stonehenge', for his use in the next life.
Tests on the bones showed that the Archer was a man aged between 35 and 45. He was strongly built, but he had an abscess on his jaw and had suffered an accident a few years before his death that had ripped his left knee cap off. As a result of this he walked with a straight left which swung out to the side of him, and suffered from an infection in his bones which would have caused him constant pain.
Other tests on the enamel found on the Archer's teeth revealed that he grew up in central Europe. They could not reveal how long he had lived in Britain, only that he must have lived in the Alps region while a child, either Switzerland, Austria or Germany.
The Archer is important because he is the first example of a powerful elite who may well have organised the erection of Stonehenge. Stonehenge was begun in the late Stone Age, around 3,000BC, as a ditch and a bank enclosing an open space, but in about 2,300BC the world-famous stones were erected, the large 20-tonne Sarsen stones from the Marlborough Downs nearby and the smaller four-tonne Bluestones from Preseli in west Wales. How the Bluestones were transported 240 miles (380 kilometres) is not yet known.