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Ancient Goldworking Toolkit From Burial Near Stonehenge Discovered

A team of archaeologists at the universities of Leicester and Southampton, UK, has just published research reporting that mysterious artifacts recovered from an important Bronze Age burial mound outside Stonehenge are in fact the remains of a 3,800-year-old toolkit used to work gold. 

Archaeologists determine an ancient toolkit found near Stonehenge was used for making various gold objects.

“This is a really exciting finding for our project,” stated Rachel Crellin, lead author and archaeologist at the University of Leicester. “What our work has revealed is the humble stone toolkit that was used to make gold objects thousands of years ago.”

The paper explains: “Such battle axes were far from the only smooth stones that could have been selected for these purposes,” the paper explains. “In intentionally repurposing these objects, their histories rubbed off on the materials they worked.”

An ancient toolkit found at a burial site was probably used to make gold objects, according to a new paper published in Antiquity. 

“Gold-working tools dating to the Early Bronze Age are extremely rare, so identifying a toolkit for creating composite gold objects is an extremely important discovery,” Chris Standish co-author of the study, said.

Tools found in graves revealed that they had gold marks on the surfaces, suggesting that they were used for precious metal crafting. 

Researchers discovered the traces of gold on stone tools in a reanalysis of artifacts using modern archaeological techniques, including using a scanning electron microscope and X-ray spectrometer to confirm any traces of the substance and to identify its chemical composition.

The researchers examination revealed the presence of gold traces in five of the myriad objects buried with them, which, elementally, are consistent with other bronze age gold objects. 

Researchers have recently returned to a 4,000-year-old artifact that was excavated from the site known as Upton Lovells burial of G2a. 

This new study identified a further four lithic objects that had gold in their surfaces, as well as distinctive signs of wear, linking the vast array of objects in the burial with the process of goldsmithing.

According to new research published in Antiquity, the microscopic remains on the surfaces of tools are ancient gold, which shows that these objects, made from stone and bronze alloys, were used for the shaping of the tools as hammers and anvils, as well as for the polishing of objects. 

“By exploring the use of materials through a technique called microwear analysis, that determines microscopic marks on objects, [we can] better understand how they were made and used,” said Oliver Harris, coauthor and University of Leicester archaeologist, in an email to ARTnews. “We have shown how central stone is to the process of making gold, and how stones with certain properties and histories were preferentially selected to be part of this practice.”

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