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Human Bones Discovered

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2:29pm 18th March 2014

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Experts are called in after human bones are found in a North Cornwall cliff face.

The skeleton at Harlyn Bay is thought to be that of a young Bronze Age woman.

The report of the find initially came to Senior Environmental Protection Officer Sara Grattan who is part of the Council’s Public Health and Protection service: "We were contacted by the police after a call from a member of the public who had seen what they thought were human remains in a cavity the cliff face" she said.

The Public Health and Protection service are responsible for investigating such reports and, following an investigation which established this was a finding of interest, it was necessary to apply for an emergency licence from the Ministry of Justice to carry out an exhumation.  This licence is granted under Section 25 of the Burial Act 1857.

Once it had been established that the bones were of historical significance Sara contacted the Council’s Historic Environment service to remove them.

Enter Andy Jones, an Archaeologist Team Leader with the Historic Environment service who is an expert in Bronze Age ceremonial monuments, including burials: "This area is one of the most important for prehistoric burials in Cornwall” said Andy. “The sand protects bone from the acidic soil conditions making it one of the few places in Cornwall where unburnt bone will survive".

Andy and his team visited the site and found that the cavity was in fact a cist (a stone burial chest) which had been set into the ground: "Our investigation of the cist revealed that it contained a partial burial (the full skeleton does not seem to have been buried) of a young person - possibly female. There were no grave goods and the only find was a quartz block."

The bones were carefully removed from the cavity and taken back to Andy’s base at New County Hall for further investigation, including radiocarbon dating.

This latest find is located close to several other burials of Bronze Age date (3500-4000 years ago), which have been exposed by earlier cliff falls and a large Iron Age (2500-2000 years ago) cist grave cemetery is located nearby.

2:29pm 18th March 2014

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