New Historian

Child Labour Was Instrumental for Stonehenge Treasure


<![CDATA[The issue of child labour has been at the forefront of debate since the onset of industrialisation. While now illegal in much of the Western world, child labour is still used in some industrialised countries, and even in factories that are contracted manufacturers for international companies. A new study has suggested however, that children were utilised in the work force thousands of years before the industrial revolution. According to new research, the Stonehenge treasure - a set of finely decorated daggers and ornate jewellery - was made by children as young as ten during the Bronze Age. The study states that the beauty of these products came at an ugly price. Many of these children could have ended up with impaired eyesight as a consequence of their intricately fine craftwork. The Stonehenge treasure, which is housed 15 miles north of the iconic monument, at the Wiltshire Museum in Devizes, has been re-analyzed by a group of experts for a new BBC documentary. The treasure was discovered in a burial mound at Bush Barrow near the mysterious monument in 1808. The burial site belonged to a clan leader who lived almost 4,000 years ago. Like most burial sites from the time, his grave was filled with many objects that showed how powerful and important he was before his death. Included in these objects was a lozenge made of gold, which fastened his cloak, and an intricately designed bronze dagger which hung from his belt. The handle of this dagger originally had about 140,000 tiny studs ingrained in it. The studs are thinner than a human hair. They were placed into the wood to form a zig-zag pattern at a density of a little over 1,000 studs per square centimetre. These studs must have been inserted by children, as they were too small to have been set in the handle by adult hands. These objects were made 1,000 years before the invention of the magnifying glass hence, the people who made these objects would have needed razor-sharp eyesight. It seems likely therefore that only children and teenagers were used. It is believed the children were trained and worked in Brittany, in north-west France, where approximately twenty daggers with similar types of handles have been found. There was a great deal of trade in metals between Brittany and England, which means that even though the dagger found at Bush Barrow is more sophisticated, North-West France is still the most likely place of origin. The dagger may have been a gift from one chieftain to another. These intricately crafted objects came at a terrible price, as the process of making the fine objects would have caused the child workers' eyes to deteriorate. The children's eyes would have begun to get worse after about five years of labour in the places where these daggers were made, leading to them eventually becoming myopic. By the time they were in their twenties, many of the children would have developed increasingly blurred vision and may have eventually gone completely blind. In the harsh reality of this period of history, the construction of the daggers in childhood may have been the only source of income they were able to earn through their entire life. ]]>

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