Archaeologists excavating a gravel quarry near Windsor have discovered the 4,400 year old skeleton of an upper class woman adorned with precious gold, amber and lignite.
The woman, who was around 40 when she died, was buried wearing a necklace of folded sheet gold, a bracelet of lignite beads, and amber buttons on her long-perished burial garment. She is the earliest known female buried with such treasures ever found in Britain and was almost certainly a member of the local ruling elite.
It is believed that the gold and lignite used to make the jewellery originated hundreds of miles to the west of the burial site and that the amber came from the North Sea coast, revealing something of the extensive trade networks in Copper Age Britain shortly after the construction of Stonehenge.
The woman was buried clasping a decorated ceramic drinking vessel in her hands and with her head pointing south. Men and women across Europe during this period were often buried in opposing directions, with men’s heads pointing north and women’s heads pointing south.
The remains were discovered 18 months ago, but kept secret until initial analysis of the woman’s bones and the gold had been completed. The excavation of the site, which started a decade ago, has already unearthed 4 early Neolithic houses, 40 Bronze Age burials, 3 Bronze Age farm complexes and several Iron Age settlements.
Gareth Chaffey of Wessex Archaeology, who is leading the dig, said that the woman “was probably an important person in her society, perhaps holding some standing which gave her access to prestigious, rare and exotic items. She could have been a leader, a person with power and authority, or possibly part of an elite family – perhaps a princess or queen.”
Source: The Independent
Image by Wessex Archaeology: An artist’s impression of the woman at the time of burial 4,400 years ago.