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: Thames Va


In June 2008, Thames Valley Archaeological Services had been excavating at North Bersted, near Bognor Regis, for six months. The field that they were investigating was destined for development into a new community called Bersted Park, and the project had unearthed extensive evidence of much earlier domestic activity: thousands of ditches, pits, and postholes spanning the Bronze Age to the Roman period. None of this was unexpected – but rather more surprising was the discovery of a large rectangular feature filled with darker soil. At the time, Senior Project Officer Andrew Taylor joked that it was ‘probably a grave’ – little knowing that he would shortly be proven to be right.

As the team excavated the rectangular shadow, they first came across a number of corroded metal straps, followed by three tall, ceramic jars standing in a neat row at one end of the cut. The vessels were completely intact, as if they had only just been placed in the ground. Further into the dark shape lay pieces of metalwork gleaming bright green – copper-alloy or bronze oxidised by centuries beneath the soil. There were further metal objects to come, including the corroded remains of a sword and a spearhead. And as a poorly-preserved human skeleton emerged in the middle of these objects, it was clear that the team had discovered an exceptional Iron Age warrior burial.

Its occupant was a mature adult male, aged 45 or older at the time of his death in the mid-1st century BC. He had not been exceptionally tall, at 5ft 7in (1.72m), but he was robustly built, testifying to a very physically active life – and to his martial grave goods being more than symbolic objects. His leg bones preserved the marks of strong muscle and ligament attachments, possibly pointing to considerable time spent on horseback, while his upper arms were even more distinctive. His right humerus

OPPOSITE This striking reconstruction depicts a dual-crested helmet that was found in an Iron Age grave at North Bersted, West S ussex. Created for an exhibition centred on the burial – currently running at the Novium Museum in Chichester – it imagines how this unique object, found in pieces, may have looked when complete. below Discovered in 2008, the North Bersted warrior’s grave was excavated by Thames Valley Archaeological S ervices. This plan highlights the unique collection of grave goods that were discovered. In the photograph (which views the grave from the opposite angle to that shown in the plan), the green dome of the helmet, initially interpreted as a copperalloy bowl, can be seen towards the centre.

Issue 361


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