When a dog walker spotted what appeared to be a human skull on the banks of the River Severn an investigation was launched by Gloucestershire Scenes of Crime Department.
The walker, who spotted the bones near Longney Pumping Station, wrapped the fragments in a plastic bag before the Severn Bore swept in last March. Officers quickly made their way to the scene to begin work on assessing what the remains were.
Experts in forensic anthropology confirmed that the bones were indeed human. The next task was to establish the age of the remains and so officers submitted the bones for radio carbon dating.
The results were unexpected with experts dating the skull as being from between 2340BC and 2140BC – making them more than four thousand years old, a time when the world was dominated by the dynasties of Ancient Egypt and Sumeria (now part of Iraq), when metal tools were only just being discovered in Northern Europe, and maize was beginning to be cultivated in Central America.
Martin Cuffe, Crime Scene Co-ordinator, said: “Given the history of the area we live in, it isn’t unusual to find old bones dating back a few hundred years.
“However, it was quite a shock to be told that these were dating back to the Bronze Age.
“The age of the bones means that they will not form part of any criminal investigation, and with only a small number of bones, we are unlikely to be able to glean much more information about the individual, which is a shame, as it would be interesting to know more about this person, and how they lived.”
The discovery of the skull on the banks of the Severn came just a few weeks after another set of bones were found by a member of the public further along the river in Newnham.
Again, these were sent off to be examined by experts in carbon dating, with the professionals saying they believed the remains dated from the medieval period, sometime between 1260AD and 1400AD. The SOCO team has now been in touch with the county archaeologist who will assess whether further examination is required on both sets of remains.