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Posted: Jul 22, 2019

New research into TB skeleton announced

Further research to be done on the earliest known TB skeleton in Britain.

The Priest’s House Museum and Garden has been awarded a 'Small Grant Big Improvement' grant of £1000 from South West Museum Development towards further research into the earliest known TB skeleton in the UK. This project entitled 'The Iron Age TB skeleton – going beyond the glass case' will investigate the origins of the skeleton and the grant will be used to commission specialists to perform isotope analyses (Strontium and Oxygen) to answer this question. The results will enable the museum to draw new conclusions and improve the interpretation of this significant artefact for a range of audiences.

The Iron Age skeleton was discovered in a Romano-British grave in a multi-period site in Tarrant Hinton, Dorset, during excavations undertaken between 1967 and 1985 by the Wimborne Archaeological Group. According to Dr Simon Mays, Human Skeletal Biologist for Historic England, this is still the earliest known skeleton in the UK exhibiting Tuberculosis (TB). Radiocarbon dating in 2003 indicated that the man, aged between 30 and 40, died between 400 and 230 BC. It is not known whether the man, who also exhibits signs of Spina bifida, was native to the UK or came from elsewhere. Professor Alistair Pike, Professor of Archaeological Sciences at the University of Southampton, will undertake the isotope analysis and it is hoped that results will be available during the autumn.

The project is funded by South West Museum Development using public funds from Arts Council England and contributing Local Authorities. It is hoped that the results will shed more light on Iron Age society and allow the museum to show that East Dorset has more connections with the wider world than were previously known.

Museum Director, Emma Ayling, an archaeologist herself said: "We are delighted to have received this grant, which is supported by a very generous donation from one of our volunteers. More specialist knowledge about the origins of our Iron Age TB skeleton will enable the Priest’s House Museum to display and interpret him properly for the first time, linking past with present and enhancing the story of East Dorset for the public. We will also use the knowledge gained to develop new education sessions and resources.”

For further information contact Museum Director, Emma Ayling, on 01202 882533 or email

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