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Cist uncovered at North Cornwall beauty spot

Heard about this on local radio...not sure how accessible it is to the general public.

and this from the Western Morning News 16/08/2008

A WALKER strolling along a beach made an amazing find when he stumbled across the remains of a Bronze Age tribal chieftain protruding from the ground.

The discovery of the middle-aged man's skeleton and cisk – or burial casket – was made by amateur archaeologist Trevor Renals on Constantine Island, on the North Cornwall coast.

He noticed that fragments of what appeared to be human bone had become exposed owing to coastal erosion.

Experts were so excited by the find that they performed an emergency week-long excavation of the site to extract it in a race against coastal erosion and storms.

The Middle Bronze Age find is thought to be of an important man, possibly a chieftain, and is very unusual because cremation, not burial, was popular in the period and other skeletons are not normally found so well-preserved.
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Mr Renals said: "I was walking along the coast – it is a particularly rich area for remains – and I was actually looking for flint and there was one area that was particularly eroded from pedestrian access.

"While searching one particular area I found a front tooth and another piece of bone and I looked to see where it had come from.

"I could see from the bit of flint sticking out of the ground that it was actually a stone-lined cisk.

"When I realised it was actually a burial I got in contact with the county archaeologist."

Mr Renals said he also identified the base of the spine, pelvis and femur.

In a race against time and the elements experts from Cornwall County Council Historic Environments Service and the National Trust began an excavation of the site after it was discovered.

The trust, which owns the land where the skeleton was found, said Constantine Island was once part of the mainland.

A spokesman said: "It is rare because it is a skeleton – they were cremated or the bones didn't survive.

"As soon as we found out we had to make arrangements for it to be excavated because of the danger of it going into the sea. We knew that storms were coming and we had to get it removed."

It is believed that the man was from the Middle Bronze Age of about 1380-1100BC and may have been an important member of his community.

The spokesman said: "We think he was probably a middle-aged male.

"We don't know how tall he would have been because the long bones were fragmented. We know he had quite small teeth for a man.

"Little is known about the man but he may have been of importance to the small community that he would have come from as it appears that special care was taken over his burial.

"To build a cisk and cover him with stones and possibly, turf on top wouldn't have been done with everyone."

The cisk and remains are with Cornwall County Council's historic environments service.

Mr Renals, 42, an ecologist working for the Environment Agency, said he was excited to identify the site and said that walkers on the coastal path had not noticed it – despite sitting on and walking over the ancient casket.

"The cisk was right on a quite popular path and people had been sitting on it and walking over it and not realised they were inches away from an ancient skeleton," he said.

"I feel very privileged, more than anything. I didn't just treat it like animal remains. I was very cautious to show him respect."

Mr Renals, from Wadebridge, North Cornwall, said the man had been buried in a crouching position typical of pagan rituals.

"It's clearly a pagan burial because it is a north-south alignment which is a pagan alignment

"And the body is looking out west towards the sea."

Mr Renals added that the site had been excavated just in time as in winter storms would lash the tidal Constantine Island, destroying the site.
Mr Hamhead Posted by Mr Hamhead
15th August 2008ce
Edited 9th August 2013ce

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