Although the skeleton may have gone, a grave uncovered in West Sussex is still yielding extraordinary discoveries.

Thought to belong to an Iron Age warrior buried over 2,000 years ago, the site includes weapons such as a sword in a highly decorated scabbard, as well as a spear.

The grave during excavation outside Walberton, Chichester. It is thought to belong to a warrior buried 2,000 years ago. Image: Archaeology South-East.
The grave during excavation outside Walberton, Chichester. It is thought to belong to a warrior buried 2,000 years ago. Image: Archaeology South-East.

The burial was discovered during an excavation commissioned by Linden Homes, who are developing a site on the outskirts of Walberton, near Chichester.

The team that made the discovery were from Archaeology South-East, the commercial branch of UCL’s Institute of Archaeology.

The grave is dated to the late Iron Age/early Roman period and is thought to be one of only a handful in the south of England.

Initial investigation has revealed a copper-alloy decoration at the scabbard mouth, which would have been highly visible when the sword was carried around.

There are also remains of a studded garment, likely worn by the occupant when buried. This is especially noteworthy as evidence of clothing rarely survives.

The grave contained remains of a wooden container, too, inside which are four ceramic vessels made of local clay. It is thought that these would have been used in food preparation, cooking, and storage, and later placed within the grave as part of the funeral offering.

X-rays have revealed the decorated nature of the sword and scabbard. Image: Archaeology South-East.
X-rays have revealed the decorated nature of the sword and scabbard. Image: Archaeology South-East.

Commenting on the finding, archaeologist Jim Stevenson, manager of 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?’

He added: ‘Although the soil conditions destroyed the skeleton, the items discovered within the grave suggest that the occupant had been an important individual.’

Work on identifying the individual and assessing the true scope of his importance continues.

This article was published in the April 2020 issue of Military History Matters. To find out more about subscribing to the magazine, click here.




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