Page last updated at 06:57 GMT, Tuesday, 15 December 2009

4,000-year-old flowers found at Bronze Age dig

Dr Kenneth Brophy examines the finds.
The tiny flower heads are frozen in a test-tube to preserve them

Proof that pre-historic people placed bunches of flowers in the grave when they buried their dead has been found for the first time, experts have said.

Archaeologists have discovered a bunch of meadowsweet blossoms in a Bronze Age grave at Forteviot, south of Perth.

The find is reported in the journal "British Archaeology", out this week.

Pollen found in earlier digs had been thought to have come from honey, or the alcoholic drink mead but this find may finally rule that theory out.

Dr Kenneth Brophy, from the University of Glasgow, said the flowers "don't look very much. Just about three or four millimetres across."

"But these are the first proof that people in the Bronze Age were actually placing flowers in with burials."

The dark brown heads were found, along with a clump of organic material which archaeologists now say is the stems of the flowers.

Once the flowerheads were white meadowsweet blossoms.
Archaeologists are excited by the flowerhead discovery

The bunch had been placed by the head of the high-status individual known to have been buried in the grave.

Diggers also found pieces from a birch bark coffin in the grave, and a bronze dagger with a gold hilt band.

"In burials we're used to finding metalwork", Dr Brophy explained.

"But to find these very human touches is something very rare, if not unique. It brings it home to you that what you're looking at is not just a series of abstract remains, but actually these are people that you're dealing with."

The finds all come from a bronze age grave - or cist - excavated by the Universities of Aberdeen and Glasgow.

The site was marked by an avenue of oak posts, and large earthworks.

More digs are planned in the area next year, when archaeologists will try to confirm if a sandstone slab found nearby was part of a stone circle.

The excavations are all part of the Strathearn Environs and Royal Forteviot Project (Serf).

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