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Human Sacrifice in Kettlewell

From the Yorkshire Post 03/01/03

Child in prehistoric grave 'may have been sacrificed'

THE remains of a child who could have been a human sacrifice have been found in a prehistoric graveyard unearthed in the Yorkshire Dales by Leeds University archaeologists.

The bones of the child, aged about four and thought to have lived in the Bronze Age about 3,000 years ago, were discovered in a stone-lined hollow – one of eight sets in the ring cairn near Kettlewell in Upper Wharfedale.
The unique discovery of the remains along with prehistoric cattle bones, pottery and an arrow head, suggested the cairn was used for rituals as well as a burial site, said Roger Martlew, who made the find with a team of students from Leeds University's school of continuing education.
Dr Martlew said: "The site is full of features which, although found individually at different ring cairns around Britain, have not been found together in one place before.
"It could show that the Dales, which had been thought to be a bit of a backwater at the time, actually had wider connections to other parts of the country.
"What is unique is that we have a mixture of two elements – we have got different ritual activity but we have got burials as well."
He said he had not expected to find the remains of the child because it was usual for Bronze Age ring cairns to be ceremonial and not actual burial sites.
Some ring cairns – circles of underground stone-lined hollows – found across England and Wales contain nothing but pits of pure charcoal that suggest the cairns were used for some ceremony not necessarily connected with burial.
Dr Martlew added: "We have taken a quick look, and the bones seem to be of a child aged four although we haven't determined yet whether it was a boy or a girl.
"There is a suggestion elsewhere that children were offered as human sacrifices and that is a possibility here.
"We think there may well be more bodies to be found, as there generally tends to be an important primary burial of some sort and this is not it."
The discovery is the culmination of a two-year project by Dr Martlew and his team of mature students which began as a field survey of the area.
The excavation has already provided the focus for archaeological field courses run by the school of continuing education, and funding has also been obtained from the Centre for Field Research in the US. Work will continue to unravel the complexities of the site over the next year.

02 January 2003
fitzcoraldo Posted by fitzcoraldo
3rd January 2003ce

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