Archaeologists stunned as dig unearths 4,000-year-old burial treasures unrivalled anywhere in Britain
Hidden beneath a four-ton slab of rock and surrounded by ancient carved symbols of prehistoric power, a spectacular, high-status, potentially royal tomb, dating back 4,000 years, has been discovered by archaeologists in Scotland.
The find - of international importance - is unique in Britain. The excavations at Forteviot, near Perth, have yielded the remains of an early Bronze Age ruler buried on a bed of white quartz pebbles and birch bark with at least a dozen personal possessions - including a bronze-and-gold dagger, a bronze knife, a wooden bowl and a leather bag.
The discovery has huge implications for Scottish history. Forteviot has long been known to have been a great royal centre in the early medieval period. It was a "capital" of a Pictish Kingdom in the 8/9th century AD - and one of Scotland's earliest kings, Kenneth MacAlpin, is said to have had a palace there.
But up until now nobody suspected that Forteviot's royal roots might be thousands of years older. The newly discovered prehistoric tomb is of particular importance because it lies at the very heart of Scotland's largest pre-historic ritual/religious ceremonial complex. The excavations are now revealing that back in around 2600 BC, local Neolithic people constructed a giant 250m diameter circle of 200 timber obelisks with a ceremonial processional way leading to its entrance and an inner timber circle at its centre. Each oak obelisk was up to a metre in diameter. Then, by 2400BC, a massive earthwork enclosure with a moat 10m wide and 3m deep was built inside that inner timber circle.
At roughly the same time two other similar earthwork enclosures - "henges" - were built, north of the large timber circle. And finally in around 2000BC the tomb was built underground in what was probably the most prestigious location - immediately opposite the entrance to the henge at the centre of the entire complex.
Uniquely, the tomb's stone wall, at the head end of the grave, was decorated with carvings of two bronze axes. What's more, the tomb's great 2m by 2m, four-ton stone roof was decorated with a much older carving of a probable Neolithic stone battle axe or ceremonial mace head - a fact which suggests that it was removed from an older monument specifically for use in this ultra-high-status prehistoric tomb.
The use of white quartz pebbles and white birch bark as bedding for the dead man may well have been seen as a way of helping to guarantee rebirth in the next world. …