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Last Updated: Monday, 5 December 2005, 16:26 GMT
Skeleton under ship is Iron age
The skeletal remains found by workers
Workmen discovered the bones underneath the Newport Ship
The remains of a skeleton found underneath a medieval ship discovered buried in the banks of the River Usk in Newport are that of an Iron age man.

Tests carried out on the bones which were found in December 2002, have shown that they date back to 170BC.

It makes the skeleton about 1,500 years older than the 15th century ship.

The man is thought to have been about 5ft 9in tall and very muscular. He was probably in his late 20s or early 30s when he died.

Experts carried out radio carbon dating on the bones which were found underneath wooden struts supporting the ship as workers carried out an excavation of the orchestra pit of the city's Riverfront Theatre and Arts Centre on 11 December 2002.

The bones were examined by Dr Ros Coard and Alison Bennett from the University of Lampeter.

At the time of the find, it was thought that the man may have died in an industrial accident as he was salvaging the boat.

The bones of the Iron age man
Experts carbon dated the bones of the man

Archaeologists have concluded that the man's body may have deliberately placed in the channel or he was a victim of drowning whose body was washed into the channel and buried under sediment.

Kate Hunter, the Newport Ship project leader for Newport Council, said: "I never expected him to be quite as old as this.

"It's very interesting because there are not a lot of prehistoric bones found from the Severn Estuary and it all adds to the knowledge."

Meanwhile the restoration team of the Newport Ship - expected to one eventually be displayed in the new arts centre - could be more significant than the discovery of the Tudor ship, the Mary Rose.

The team of experts working on the project have been using state-of-the-art digital technology to record the 1,700 timbers which make up the vessel.

Man uncovering the Newport Ship
The Newport Ship was found buried in the banks of the River Usk

Ms Hunter expects the conservation programme of recording the timbers and restoring the ship to take between 10 and 15 years.

When the ship was first found, thousands of people flocked to Newport to see it as it lay in the banks of the River Usk.

There were fears that the ship would be broken up and not preserved but a 3.5m grant was given by the Welsh Assembly Government to fund the restoration.

The city council is continuing to seek funding from other bodies such as the Heritage Lottery Fund to continue the preservation of the ship.

No other sea going vessel of this size and date survives as completely as the Newport Ship.

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