Reconstruction of Bronze Age man from Bray’s Cave, Gibraltar
Minister for the Environment, Sustainability, Climate Change, Heritage and Culture, Professor John Cortes unveiled a reconstruction of the head of a Bronze Age man from Gibraltar on Tuesday 24th November, 2020.
The reconstruction is of a man whose cranium was excavated from Bray’s Cave on the Upper Rock by a team from the Gibraltar National Museum between 1999 and 2006. He was one of nine individuals (including adults, a five year-old, a 9/10-year old, a 15/20-year old, and a neonate) buried on site. The burials were dated to between 1,496 and 1,900 BCE, that is approximately 3.5 to 4 thousand years ago. This individual was subsequently sampled for ancient DNA as part of a collaboration with the Harvard Medical School, a project which also revealed part of Calpeia’s (a Neolithic woman from Europa Point) DNA. The results were published in 2019 in the journal Science (https://science.sciencemag.org/content/363/6432/1230). The skin, eye and hair colour have been derived from the genetic information derived from a sample of Iberian individuals from that period (which included the Bray’s Cave individual) used in the published study.
As with the Calpeia reconstruction, the current project used all available information and involved the repositioning of elements of the cranium which had become deformed by the burial process. This was done in the Gibraltar National Museum laboratories, working with 3-d print outs of the cranium after detailed scanning of the original. The reconstructed cranium then became the basis for the development of the sculpture. This work was performed by Gibraltar National Museum restorer Mr Manuel Jaen.
The DNA analyses published revealed that the Bronze Age Iberian population was replaced by individuals from the present-day steppes of Russia near the Black and Caspian Seas. This population movement of steppe peoples appears to have resulted in the complete replacement of the Iberian male population. Our man from Bray’s Cave was a descendant of this population that arrived from the steppe. Curiously, the excavations at Bray’s Cave in their day revealed an amber bead among the burial goods. This struck archaeologists as notable, since amber sources are far from Gibraltar. One such source is the steppe north of the Black Sea where we now know these people came from. We can only speculate if the bead came from this region and Gibraltar National Museum scientists are now considering ways of identifying the amber source from which the bead was made. In the reconstruction the man is wearing a replica of the bead.
It has become practice to name the reconstructions of early people who inhabited Gibraltar: Nana and Flint for the Neanderthals and Calpeia for the Neolithic woman from Europa Point. On this occasion it is the Gibraltarian public who is asked to suggest a name. This can be done via the Gibraltar National Museum’s social media accounts (Facebook, Twitter and Instagram). A shortlist of names will then be put out on social media for a public vote.