Curator's Choice: Alexander Keiller Museum

Click to follow
The Independent Culture
Charlie, the exhibit I have selected, is the skeleton of a child that was found in a ditch at Windmill Hill, one of the six neolithic sights that make up the Avebury complex in Wiltshire. It is not clear what the site's function was although it was probably not a permanent settlement. It was more likely a place where people from distant communities met to trade or carry out slaughtering and leatherworking. It was possibly a transhumance situation, where a pastoral society moved en masse to a temporary summer pasture.

There were very few burials at Windmill Hill, in fact there were only two, both children, which again suggests it was not a permanent site. One of them is the skeleton we now call Charlie. Alexander Keiller, the amateur archaeologist, discovered Charlie in his excavation season of 1928-29 and although we do not know how he died it was probably a natural death. I think there was some tragedy in 3000 BC, someone's child died, and they buried him there. It is doubtful that he was a noble because if so he would possibly have been buried in a long-barrow or some other ceremonial site. We are not entirely sure about his age either. People have examined the skull and they say he was about three years old but this dating is unreliable as the skull was crushed. I have examined the teeth and they appear to have roots, so that would make him about seven.

Charlie is by far the most popular exhibit in the museum because he is human and complete and people of all ages can identify with him.

Stanley Jenkins is curator of the Alexander Keiller Museum, Avebury, nr Marlborough, Wiltshire (06723 250). Opening times 10am-4pm

Comments