Images and X-rays of the sword and scabbard © Chichester Observer

The 2,000-year-old grave of an Iron Age “warrior” has been unearthed by archaeologists in West Sussex, Southern England. The grave, which is dated to the late Iron Age/early Roman period (1st century BC – AD 50) is incredibly rare, as only a handful are known to exist in the South of England. As reported in the local newspaper, the Chichester Observer, the burial site contained an iron spear and a sword in a highly decorated scabbard.

Detail of the 2,000 year old sword © Chichester Observer

The grave was discovered during excavations before work begins on building new homes near the village of Walberton.

According to archaeologist Jim Stevenson from Archaeology South-East (ASE), X-rays and initial conservation of the sword and scabbard reveal beautiful copper-alloy decoration at the scabbard mouth, which would have been highly visible when the sword was worn in life. “Although the soil conditions destroyed the skeleton, the items discovered… suggest that the occupant had been an important individual.”

Whether he was a warrior or not is unclear. “There has been much discussion generally as to who the people buried in the ‘warrior’ tradition may have been in life… Were they really warriors, or just buried with the trappings of one?”

Images and X-rays of the sword and scabbard © Chichester Observer

According to Mr Stevenson, dotted lines on the X-ray may be the remains of a studded garment worn by the occupant when buried – which is particularly exciting as evidence of clothing rarely survives.

The grave also held the remains of a wooden container, preserved as a dark stain, likely used to lower the individual into the grave. Four ceramic vessels were placed outside of this container, but still within the grave.

The vessels are jars made from local clays and would usually have been used for food preparation, cooking and storage. They were probably placed in the grave as containers for funerary offerings, perhaps intended to provide sustenance for the deceased in the afterlife.

Source:            Chichester Observer (29 January 2020)

Text                 Alun Harvey

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