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Report on the Re-investigation of the Westley (Bury St. Edmunds) Skull Site

  • D. F. W. Baden-Powell (a1), K. P. Oakley (a2), I. W. Cornwall (a3) and C. R. Hoskins (a4)

Extract

Fossil human remains which can be attributed to the Lower Palaeolithic period are so rare that it is important to investigate thoroughly all finds for which such claims have been made. Almost all the human skulls discovered in Pleistocene deposits in Britain have proved to belong to Homo sapiens. Where the deposits are older than Upper Palaeolithic it is more than likely that such remains are not contemporaneous but represent later intrusive burials. However, the confirmation of the Lower Palaeolithic (Acheulian) age of the Swanscombe skull which, in so far as it is preserved, is not distinguishable from Homo sapiens, has revived interest in other human remains of modern type which have been reported from early deposits but laid aside as being of doubtful antiquity. Unfortunately some of these finds are now lost (e.g. Foxhall jaw). Outstanding among those which have survived are the Galley Hill skeleton and the Bury St. Edmunds skull. By application of the fluorine-dating method the former has been shown to be a comparatively recent intrusive burial (Oakley and Montagu, 1949).

The human skull fragment found near Bury St. Edmunds in 1882 has been preserved in the Moyse's Hall Museum at Bury, and is especially worthy of re-investigation as it Was claimed to be in a fossilized condition, and to have been found in a deposit which contained remains of mammoth and Acheulian implements. A Committee under Section H of the British Association was appointed in 1949 to re-investigate this discovery, and to try to find out (1) the geological age of the deposit from which the skull had been reported and (2) whether the skull was contemporaneous with this deposit. The work and conclusions of this Committee are described in the present report.

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References

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Baden-Powell, D. F. W. 1951c. The age of the interglacial deposits at Swanscombe. Geol. Mag., 88, pp. 344–54.
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Oakley, K. P. and Montagu, M. F. A. 1949. A Reconsideration of the Galley Hill Skeleton, Bull. Brit. Mus. (Nat. Hist.) Geol. ser., 1, pp. 2746.
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Report on the Re-investigation of the Westley (Bury St. Edmunds) Skull Site

  • D. F. W. Baden-Powell (a1), K. P. Oakley (a2), I. W. Cornwall (a3) and C. R. Hoskins (a4)

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