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Planet Earth

Badgers vs. Saxons on Salisbury Plain

The burrowing creatures are wreaking havoc on ancient artifacts. 

By Kathy A SvitilJune 27, 2004 5:00 AM

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Archaeologists investigating burial sites on Salisbury Plain, home to Stonehenge, face a new challenge: badgers. The animals have already tunneled through about half of the region’s 52 Neolithic long barrows—layers of bone and artifacts covered with chalky soil.

As they dig, they fling around dirt, bone, pottery, and other relics, destroying the historical context of the layers. Sometimes the damage is macabre. “The grave of one Saxon woman has a tunnel running right across it,” says archaeologist Allan Morton. “The badgers gnawed off her arm.” The destruction is likely to continue unchecked. In Britain, badgers are protected by strict laws, making it hard to relocate them—or reduce their numbers by other means. “At this rate, there will be irreparable loss to our heritage in a couple of hundred years,” Morton says.

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