Brymbo Man is Wrexham’s most ancient and museum-created ‘ancestor’. An Early Bronze Age skeleton in a cist was found in 1958 in the now post-industrial community of Brymbo in Wrexham borough. Only fractions of the skeleton survived, together with a ceramic urn and a flint blade.
Now I’m not much of a fan of the now-rather-cheesy gendered and geographical epithet for prehistoric burials based on place of origin. But then, it still gets done for hoards…. Still, for me, it sounds like a bad parody of an early hominin fossil. Still, Brymbo Man is still Brymbo Man, and perhaps he deserves that just as much as Lindow Man and all those other bog bodies… Indeed, you can tell he deserves to be ‘Man’ (capital ‘m’) because he has had a facial reconstruction done by Manchester Museum.
Brymbo Man has become an ‘immortal’ in the museum context, as Nina Nordstrom has defined them: archaeological remains that represent a single person as an enduring ‘individual’ who has been jettisoned from the past, persists in the present and is projected into the future. Many of such examples are fleshed bodies, but they needn’t be. They become ‘ancestors’ in a material, corporeal sense, in the present.
In a previous post, I’ve discussed the display of the skeleton itself and a hologram of his facial reconstruction within the museum. I posed the question: how would you feel to know that even 13% of you is enough to make you a modern-day museum icon?
Well, what I didn’t tell you before is that Brymbo Man has been rendered in a prominent artwork! A giant sculpted head of Brymbo Man now stands at the front of Wrexham Museum. There is a seat behind the head with artefacts found in the grave. The text board close by gives basic details about the find.
Oddly, it tells us he had brown hair – presuming getting confused between the facial reconstruction and what we actually know of the Bronze Age person, or is there some ancient DNA evidence? I assume this reveals the power of facial reconstructions in creating factoids.
Still, in red sandstone, Brymbo Man, or at least Manchester Museum’s reconstruction of him, has been immortalised even further and projected into the outdoors.
I cannot help feel that he is a bit like a grand ancestral Moai from Rapa Nui, or the gigantic sculptures of ancestors in Alien Covenant. On the other hand, he looks a bit 1970s.
But then, don’t they all! The 1970s was the time for ancestors as we all know. Oh yes, and prog rock…
In stone form, Brymbo Man looks out at modern-day Wrexham, and simultaneously he guards the museum. One can almost hear Yes’s Tales from Topographic Oceans playing as I gaze at him.
What would he make of modern life and our deathways? Was his society quite as adult-male obsessed and where unnamed ancient bones are afforded ancestral status within museum displays?
One thing is certain: even in osseous fragments, Brymbo Man now rocks big time! He is both an ancestor for our time, and a seat for children, courtesy of local sculptor Simon Winter.