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Storms expose ancient human remains on Harlyn Bay near Padstow

By CGMikeS  |  Posted: March 18, 2014

By Mike Smallcombe @CGMikeS

  • The bones Archaeologists believe the bones could be those of a young Iron Age or Bronze Age woman

  • Once the bones have been radiocarbon dated it is hoped they will go on show at the Royal Cornwall Museum

  • The stone burial chest in the cliff face at Harlyn Bay

  • The bones could be up to 4000 years old

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EFFORTS are under way to identify ancient human remains found on Harlyn Bay near Padstow – which archaeologists believe could be up to 4000 years old.

A member of the public reported the discovery of the skeleton parts to the police after discovering the potentially gruesome remains in a cavity in the cliff face.

Police and council officers then visited the site, and an exhumation followed after the local authority applied for an emergency licence from the Ministry of Justice.

Once it had been established that the bones were of historical significance, the council’s Historic Environment service were called in to remove them.

Team Leader Dr Andy Jones, an archaeological expert in Bronze Age ceremonial monuments, including burials, believes the bones could be those of a young Iron Age or Bronze Age woman and said there had been a lot of Bronze and Iron Age burials in the area.

“This area is one of the most important for prehistoric burials in Cornwall,” Mr Jones said. “The sand protects bone from the acidic soil conditions making it one of the few places in Cornwall where unburnt bone will survive”.

After visiting the site Dr Jones and his team found that the cavity was in fact a stone burial chest (cist) which had been set into the ground. The impact of the relentless winter storms led to a change in the cliff face, revealing the chest.

“Our investigation of the cist revealed that it contained a partial burial of a young person - possibly female. The full skeleton does not seem to have been buried, there were no grave goods and the only find was a quartz block.”

The bones were carefully removed from the cavity and taken back to Dr Jones’ base at Truro for further investigation, including radiocarbon dating.

Once they have been radiocarbon dated it is hoped they will go on show at the Royal Cornwall Museum.

This latest find is located close to several other burials of Bronze Age date (3500-4000 years ago), which have been exposed by earlier cliff falls. A large Iron Age (2500-2000 years ago) cist grave cemetery is also located nearby.

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