Archaeologists from OA North carrying out an excavation in 2009 for the Manx government in advance of a runway and taxiway extension at Ronaldsway Airport uncovered a remarkable story of Man’s prehistoric past. Three human skeletons, dated to the Iron Age, were found within a well-preserved Bronze Age settlement. The discoveries suggest that the Bronze Age settlement was monumentalised and used as a cemetery.  

Since then, osteological analysis undertaken at OA South on the skeletons has revealed more about these individuals. Two of the skeletons, one an adult female, the other a young child, were buried together within a single grave cut through the floor of a much older and abandoned middle Bronze Age house. The female skeleton, radiocarbon dated to c 800-400 cal. BC, was found in a tightly crouched position, suggesting that the body was tightly bound, placed in a bag, or even mummified. The child had been placed on top of the adult.

The third skeleton was recovered from a grave of stones constructed over an abandoned late Bronze Age/early Iron Age house. The skeleton of a young or prime adult male was radiocarbon dated to c 50-100 cal. AD. He had an iron and copper-alloy bangle on his upper arm and a series of sharp-force wounds created around the time of death, which are strongly suggestive of inter-personal violence. Indeed, it is possible that the individual was a warrior who had died from sword wounds.

The archaeological excavation was just one part of the work that ultimately allowed larger aircraft to take off from Ronaldsway Airport. The osteological analysis, however, reminds us that much of the work to reveal the hidden histories of individuals can come long after fieldwork ends.


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