Gristhorpe Man.: A Life and Death in the Bronze Age [Hardback]

Nigel D. Melton (Editor); Christopher Knusel (Editor); Janet Montgomery (Editor)

ISBN: 9781782972075 | Published by: Oxbow Books | Year of Publication: 2013 | Language: English 256p, H280 x W216 (mm) b/w and col. illustrations

Gristhorpe Man.


In July 1834 excavation of a barrow at Gristhorpe, near Scarborough, Yorkshire, recovered an intact, waterlogged, hollowed-out oak coffin containing a perfectly preserved Bronze Age skeleton that had been wrapped in an animal skin and buried with worked flints, a bronze dagger with a whalebone pommel, and a bark vessel apparently containing food residue. Gristhorpe Man became the centrepiece of the Scarborough Philosophical Society’s museum display.

In 2004, planned refurbishment of the renamed Rotunda Museum provided the opportunity for a scientific re-examination of the burial and grave goods in order to eluciate the life and death of this extraordinary survival of the British Early Bronze Age. Tree-trunk coffin burials are relatively rare and Gristhorpe Man, with his range of grave goods was likely to have held a special role in society. Analysis of the skeleton included an examination of its skeletal morphology and palaeopathological conditions combined with isotopic analyses of the bones and teeth in order to investigate mobility, diet, and status of the individual whose unusual large stature, dentition, and novel methods of conservation were of particular interest. These analyses, combined with examination of the surviving coffin lid, including the unique ‘face’ carved onto one end of it, the grave goods, and radiocarbon and dendrochronological dating, reveal fascinating insights into the social position, inter-regional contacts and the burial rite associated with this enigmatic mature man who probably saw active combat and who suffered from a benign brain tumour that may have seriously altered his personality in his later years.

Table of Contents


Introduction: The Gristhorpe Man Project 2005–2008

Background/General papers
1: Georgian Scarborough and the Scarborough Philosophical Society
(Karen Snowden)

2: Wiliam Beswick (1781–1837) and his 1834 excavation at Gristhorpe
(Nigel D. Melton and Diana Beswick)

3: The Gristhorpe burial in 19th-century archaeology: an essay on the development of archaeological thought
(Peter Rowley-Conwy)

4: Bronze Age tree-trunk coffin graves in Britain
(Mike Parker Pearson, Alison Sheridan and Stuart Needham)

The barrow site at Gristhorpe: 2006–2008 fieldwork
5: Geophysical investigations at Gristhorpe 2006–2008
(Armin Schmidt, Chris Gaffney, Tim Horsley and Samantha Hodgson)

6: Archaeological evaluation undertaken in 2007 on the site of the 1834 Gristhorpe discovery
(Nigel D. Melton and Hannah Russ)

7: The scientific dating evidence
(Cathy Batt)

The skeleton
8: The physical analysis of Gristhorpe Man: a Bronze Age osteobiography
(Christopher J. Knüsel, Vaughan Wastling, Alan R. Ogden, and Niels Lynnerup)

9: Raman spectroscopy of the Gristhorpe Man ‘mistletoe berries’: laser illumination of an ancient mystery
(Howell G. M. Edwards)

10: Diet and origins: The isotope evidence
(Janet Montgomery and Andrew R. Gledhill)

11: The facial reconstruction
(Alan R. Ogden)

The grave goods
12: The Gristhorpe cofin and its contents
(Alison Sheridan, Stuart Needham, Sonia O’Connor, Nigel Melton, Rob Janaway, Esther Cameron and Adrian Evans)

13: Analysis and metallography of the Gristhorpe dagger
(Peter Northover)

14: Proteomics analysis of Gristhorpe Man ‘gelatine ’ and species identification of the animal hide keratin
(Mike Buckley)

15: Gristhorpe Man: preservation , taphonomy and conservation, past and present
(Rob C. Janaway, Sonia O’Connor and Andrew S. Wilson)

Conclusions: The Gristhorpe Man Project 2005–2008
(Nigel D. Melton, Janet Montgomery and Christopher J. Knüsel)


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