Rare Iron Age warrior grave found in Sussex

A rare Iron Age grave furnished with weapons has been discovered in Walberton, West Sussex. The site of a future housing development was being excavated by a team from Archaeology South-East (ASE) when they unearthed the grave dating to between the Late Iron Age and the early Roman era (1st century B.C. – 50 A.D.).

No human remains were found, disintegrated over time in unwelcoming soil. A roughly rectangular dark stain on the soil is all that’s left of the wooden bed or container that the deceased was interred on or in. At one of the short ends of this stain, just outside its perimenter but well-within the grave itself, were four pottery vessels made from local clay. They are utilitarian items, of a type that would have been used to make and store food in the 1st century. Between two of them was a spearhead. At the other end of the grave were additional metal pieces, their form and function currently unknown.

Along the long side of the stain there was an iron sword inside a scabbard made of an organic material (as yet unidentifed). The scabbard was decorated with a copper alloy mount at the mouth. Initial conservation and X-rays of the sword reveal the mount was an elaborate, detailed ornament that would have stood out dramatically when worn.

Warrior burials from this period are extremely rare in Sussex, and with so little data to go on, their cultural significance is unclear.

Jim Stevenson, the ASE archaeologist who is managing the post-excavation investigations into the burial, said: “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?

“Although the soil conditions destroyed the skeleton, the items discovered within the grave suggest that the occupant had been an important individual.”

Studies of the grave and its contents are ongoing.

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8 Comments »

Comment by Jonny B.
2020-01-30 03:24:07

———-
“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?”
———-

The bit about him being –maybe or maybe not– a real ‘warrior’ I did not understand at all.

In case there would be reasons for suspicion, what are they? Is there possibly something fishy about the sword? Do we these days need to talk of the “militarily challenged” instead of “warriors”?

Who is is discussing what exactly? Does the iron age sword holder need to be a professional one with a club card? What about the part-timers and hobbyists?

:confused:

 
Comment by Trevor
2020-01-30 04:37:37

Jonny, think of the question like this: you see someone with a 4WD – is it a farmer or someone who works in the city and can afford to live in a gentrified ‘cottage’ and drive their 4WD to work as a fashion statement?

So, was the ‘warrior’ the sword swinging, blood gushing kind, or a mere sword polishing one?

 
Comment by Jonny B.
2020-01-30 05:37:20

Thanks, Trevor!

–I’d reckon, the issue would mainly depend on the numbers of enemies or invaders. Where no sword would be be swung and no blood would be gushed, and instead they all –in the City or not– would stick to happily polishing their swords, this world might be a better one.

:hattip:

According to Tacitus (“Agricola”, 11/12):

—————
…The Britons, however, exhibit more spirit, as being a people whom a long peace has not yet enervated. Indeed we have understood that even the Gauls were once renowned in war; but, after a while, sloth following on ease crept over them, and they lost their courage along with their freedom. This too has happened to the long-conquered tribes of Britain; the rest are still what the Gauls once were.

…Plus tamen ferociae Britanni praeferunt, ut quos nondum longa pax emollierit. Nam Gallos quoque in bellis floruisse accepimus; mox segnitia cum otio intravit, amissa virtute pariter ac libertate. Quod Britannorum olim victis evenit: ceteri manent quales Galli fuerunt.

Their strength is in infantry. Some tribes fight also with the chariot. The higher in rank is the charioteer; the dependants fight. They were once ruled by kings, but are now divided under chieftains into factions and parties. Our greatest advantage in coping with tribes so powerful is that they do not act in concert. Seldom is it that two or three states meet together to ward off a common danger. Thus, while they fight singly, all are conquered.

In pedite robur; quaedam nationes et curru proeliantur. Honestior auriga, clientes propugnant. Olim regibus parebant, nunc per principes factionibus et studiis trahuntur. Nec aliud adversus validissimas gentis pro nobis utilius quam quod in commune non consulunt. Rarus duabus tribusve civitatibus ad propulsandum commune periculum conventus: ita singuli pugnant, universi vincuntur….
—————

 
Comment by Dan
2020-01-30 06:39:29

It’s kind of depressing to consider what’s going to outlive even my mortal remains. When some grad student digs me up in a few thousand years, I hope I was buried with something impressive. You know, besides pots and pans.

 
Comment by ignotis parentibus
2020-01-30 07:12:53

El 99 por ciento de las tesis lanzadas por los arqueólogos son hipótesis.Sobre todo en lo referente a sus estatus oficios y vidas. En el pasado y muchos de los que viven actualmente se hicieron y hacen enterrar simulando haber sido en vida algo que sin serlo les hubiese gustado ser. Hay muchos que se pasan la vida ahorrando pata pagarse un funeral y entierro dignos de un aristócrata.

 
Comment by ignotis parentibus
2020-01-30 07:14:48

El 99 % de las tesis lanzadas por los arqueólogos son hipótesis.Sobre todo en lo referente a sus estatus oficios y vidas. En el pasado y muchos de los que viven actualmente se hicieron y hacen enterrar simulando haber sido en vida algo que sin serlo les hubiese gustado ser. Hay muchos que se pasan la vida ahorrando pata pagarse un funeral y entierro dignos de un aristócrata.

 
Comment by Jim
2020-01-30 10:17:37

Another way to look at it is that the soil is more welcoming than we might wish.

 
Comment by jane
2020-01-30 14:40:31

Dan – I hope they are confounded by my Instantpot.

 
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