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Durham University

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The Gristhorpe Man Project

A research project of the Department of Archaeology.


This project centres around the extensive scientific re-investigation of the well-preserved Early Bronze Age skeleton, log-coffin, and inorganic and organic grave goods of Gristhorpe Man. The burial was excavated in 1834 near Scarborough and has been curated at the town’s Rotunda Museum ever since. It is one of the best preserved and most important Bronze Age finds in Britain and was pivotal in the establishment of the Three Age System.

A long list of collaborators have contributed to the project from the universities of Bradford, Durham, Exeter, Oxford and Sheffield in the UK, from universities in Australia, Denmark and the USA, and from the British Museum and the National Museums of Scotland. The project was the subject of a session at the British Association Festival of Science in 2006 and was runner-up in the Awards for the Presentation of Heritage Research at the Festival of Science in 2008. Presentations on the project have been given to the Royal Archaeological Institute, the Yorkshire Archaeological Society, the Architectural and Archaeological Society of Northumberland and Durham, and numerous local societies in Yorkshire. It has featured on Eric Robson’s Out of Town series on ITV3 (2007) and Michael Portillo’s Great British Railway Journeys series on BBC2 (2010). The project’s findings were incorporated into the new museum display at the William Smith Rotunda Museum in Scarborough and a reception for the launch of the project monograph will be held at the museum on 17th January 2014.

This research project is directed by Dr. Nigel Melton and Dr. Janet Montgomery and has received funding from The Royal Archaeological Institute, the NERC, the British Association of Science, the University of Bradford and Scarborough Museums Trust.


Melton, N. D., Montgomery, J. and Knüsel, C. J. (eds.). In press (publication expected Dec. 2013) Gristhorpe Man: a life and death in the Bronze Age. Oxbow Monograph Series. Oxford: Oxbow.

Buckley, M., Melton, N. D. and Montgomery, J. 2013. Proteomics analysis of ancient food vessel stitching reveals >4,000-year-old milk proteins. Rapid Communications in Mass Spectrometry, 27, 531-538.

Edwards, H. G. M., Montgomery, J., Melton, N. D., Hargreaves, M. D., Wilson, A. S. and Carter, E. A. 2010. Gristhorpe Man: Raman Spectroscopic Study of a Bronze Age Tree Trunk Coffin Burial. Journal of Raman Spectroscopy, 41, 1243-1246. 

Melton, N. and Montgomery, J. 2011. Gristhorpe Man, Current Archaeology, 250, 20-27.

Melton, N., Montgomery, J., Knüsel, C., Batt, C., Needham, S., Parker-Pearson, M., Sheridan, A., Heron, C., Horsley, T., Schmidt, A., Evans, A., Carter, E., Edwards, H., Hargreaves, M., Janaway, R., Lynnerup, N., Northover, P., O’Connor, S., Ogden, A., Taylor, T., Wastling, V. and Wilson, A. 2010. Gristhorpe Man: an Early Bronze Age log-coffin burial scientifically defined. Antiquity, 84, 796-813.

Williamson, W.C., 1834. Description of the tumulus lately opened at Gristhorpe, near Scarborough, illustrated with engravings of the coffin, weapons, etc., First ed. C.R. Todd, Scarborough.

Williamson, W.C., 1872. Description of the tumulus opened at Gristhorpe, near Scarborough, with engravings of the coffin, weapons, etc., Third ed. S.W. Theakston, Scarborough.


From the Department of Archaeology

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