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Thread: Introducing Brymbo Man

  1. #1

    Post Introducing Brymbo Man

    Original source:

    Introducing Brymbo Man
    In August 1958 local workmen including Ron Pritchard were digging a pipe trench near No.79 Cheshire View, Brymbo, near Wrexham, when they found more than they expected: a large capstone about 1ft/30cm below the surface. They had found Brymbo Man.

    When archaeologists from the National Museum of Wales arrived to investigate, they excavated a stone lined box or cist beneath the capstone. Inside the cist were the incomplete remains of a skeleton, a small earthenware pot and a flint knife.

    His grave and the pot, known to archaeologists as a Beaker, date Brymbo Man to the early Bronze Age, probably about 1600BC.

    Until recently we knew little about Brymbo Man. Modern scientific techniques and greater knowledge of the distant past mean this is no longer the case. Read on to find out more about Brymbo's oldest known resident.

    A glimpse into the world of Brymbo Man
    He had his home in a farming community and lived off the land.

    His community was in contact with the outside world: Bronze Age boats have been discovered in the Humber estuary, grave goods include products not available locally such as amber from Scandinavia and faience from Egypt. Trade also brought new ideas such as metal working.

    Perhaps he was keener on new ideas than people further west. In Gwynedd the tradition of communal burials continued into the Bronze Age. In North-East Wales different burial practises existed alongside each other. The new ideas included burying people on their own under stone and earthen mounds, known as barrows.

    It is hard to say how many people lived in Early Bronze Age Wales. The estimates range between 10-20,000.

    The weather was warm and dry enough for farmers to use the uplands for pasture and growing crops.

    Lowland areas were thickly wooded, upland areas were not.

  2. #2

    Post Re: Brymbo Man

    The Reconstruction
    You can tell a lot about a person from their face. Now with expert help, you can recreate a human face from its skull.

    One of the top experts in facial re-construction is Dr Caroline Wilkinson. She works at the Unit of Art in Medicine at Manchester University, where Brymbo Man was sent for his "makeover."

    First question: Was there enough left of Brymbo Man's skull for a reconstruction? Just! His skull is not complete: only the chin of his lower jaw remains and part of the left side of his skull has gone. There was enough for Caroline to work on.

    Caroline made a cast of the skull. Brymbo Man's skull is too old and fragile to be used for the reconstruction. The skull is real history so it had to be protected from irreversible damage. To make the cast, Caroline had to make a mould. She sealed the holes in Brymbo Man's skull and then covered the skull in aluminium foil to protect it during the making of the mould. The moulding material, exactly the same as that used by dentists for impressions, is like porridge and is spread all over the skull. Once it set, a perfect cast of Brymbo Man's skull could be made.

    The next step for Caroline was to tap in the little pegs to indicate the flesh thickness at twenty-one different points on the skull. The measurements are decided by sex, age and ethnic group. The shape of your face is also determined by your weight. We did not know whether Brymbo Man was skinny or fat so his pegs were based on the 'average weight' measurements.

    Caroline then added the main muscles in clay. She noted the position and strength of the muscle attachments or insertions on the skull. These indicate the strength of the facial muscles and consequently the shape of Brymbo Man's face.

    Nearly every feature of the face is determined anatomically for instance:

    The width of the mouth by the outer borders of the canine teeth or the inner borders of the iris in the eyes.

    The width of the nasal aperture in the skull is about 60% of the width of the nose.

    If you draw a line from the lower third of the nose bone and another from the nasal spine at the bottom of the nasal aperture, where the two lines cross is the tip of the nose.

    The angle at which the eyes slant can be determined from the skull based on the angle between the hollow for the tear glands and a little bump on the inside of the orbit (the eye socket).

    It is not guess work or imagination. It is this methodological approach that ensures that the re-construction of Brymbo Man's face is as true to life as possible.

    The skin is added in clay strips guided by the little wooden pegs. All the time Caroline also takes account of the muscle structure she created initially. Some things are difficult to decide exactly: lips and ears are particularly tricky. The skill is ensuring that the choice made fits in with the rest of the face. No-one who has had cosmetic plastic surgery could be replicated from their skull or at least not how they looked post operation. Caroline did the final modelling relying on her experience over the years in facial reconstruction work.

    Brymbo Man's next journey was to London to visit the make-up artist. She added hair and eyebrows. Decisions on hair and eye colour are difficult. Many of the choices are based on suppositions about the past that reveal more about archaeologists and pre-historians who make them than what was reality. By giving Brymbo Man brown hair and hazel eyes the question of his exact origin is left open for further discussion. He spent a lot of time out of doors so he needed a weather beaten look. We don't know whether he was clean shaven or not, but they did have razors in the Early Bronze Age.

    Now he has returned to the Museum, you can see the finished re-construction for yourself. That is how he looked. Not so different from us after all.

  3. #3

  4. #4

    Post Re: Brymbo Man

    The Changing Views
    Brymbo Man's remains were in poor condition and scarce. This is not surprising for a burial so close to the surface. It is likely some of the bones were removed.

    Archaeologists have found cists elsewhere close to the surface. These cists were not disturbed. Why make this assumption for Brymbo Man's grave?

    Brymbo Man was buried in a crouched position. He was tightly bound and then lowered into the grave. He was buried only once.

    This cannot explain his missing bones. Only 13% of his skeleton remains. There is evidence on the bones that some bones were de-fleshed before burial. Perhaps he was left on the surface to decay. Only later were some of the bones buried. This was probably a "secondary burial." What does that tell us about Brymbo Man's importance.

    Brymbo Man has a broad skull, rugged features and marked brow ridges. These features are typical of the invading Beaker Folk. They were an advanced people who came from Europe. We know they are different from their new burial customs and their special beakers.

    Archaeologists now think that it was ideas that travelled not invading armies. People heard about making beakers and decided to make their own. People did move around for instance to trade and fighting did occur. We do not have enough evidence to say the Beaker Folk were a separate invading force. Moreover, we have not found enough skulls from the Early Bronze Age to divide people up into groups.

    Brymbo Man shows just how difficult it is to make definite statements about prehistory. There will always be question marks hanging over sites like Brymbo Man's burial cist. The debate will go on…

  5. #5

    Post Re: Brymbo Man

    Brymbo Man : Burials

    Brymbo Man has been of such interest to archaeologists because he is rare: a Beaker burial in Wales.

    So little remains of the lives of people in prehistoric times that burial sites are more important in telling us about them than our graveyards will ever be in telling the future about us.

    In their world view, death was ever present in their lives. Consequently the changing burial practices of people in the Stone, Bronze and Iron Ages helps to reveal their belief and social systems.

    Neolithic Burials

    People buried in groups; children and adults together.

    Community more important than the individual.

    Perhaps also sited where the community felt threatened by nature or other people as a property claim

    Long cairn found at Tan-y-coed in the Dee Valley.

    Round cairn found at Gop Cairn, nr Prestatyn. The second largest prehistoric man-made mound in Britain. To build something so big meant that community was saying something important.

    Beaker Burials

    Time of change during the late Stone Age and early Bronze Age led to changes in societies, beliefs and customs.

    Burials became more individualistic. People buried on their own.

    The dead took personal belongings with them - jewellery, arrow heads, weapons such as axe-heads, flint knives and metal work. These objects reflected status and aspirations while alive. Perhaps they had symbolic rôles in the afterlife.

    Beaker Burials are the first burials to contain personal belongings with the body.

    The Beakers were important enough to be put in the graves.

    These sites are smaller than the communal sites of the Stone Age and fewer have been discovered/have survived.

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    Post Re: Brymbo Man

    Very interesting post Frans.

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