The elaborate grave of a mystery warrior who fought against Caesar’s invasion of Britain

It’s an ancient Gallic grave that archaeologists are calling “the most elaborately equipped warrior grave ever found in England,” and it’s about to be put on display for the first time after 12 long years.

Discovered in 2007 during excavations ahead of a housing development project in Berkeley Homes’ Bersted Park, researchers made the find of a lifetime when they unearthed the grave of a warrior who fought against the Roman forces of Julius Caesar in Brittania (Britain) in 50 BC.

Julius Caesar depicted leading his army in an invasion of Britain. Image via Wikimedia

Thought to have fought alongside King Commius, the warrior grave included a treasure trove of weapons that had been purposely damaged to “decommission” them upon burial. The team also found pottery, a Celtic headdress and a helmet.

According to the Chichester Observer:

Analysis of the man shows he had a disproportionately large arm, which he will have used for his sword or spear, strong legs from spending a lot of time riding a horse, and signs of osteoarthritis in his neck, which wouldn’t have been helped by the massive helmet.

He was about 5″4′ in height and was roughly 45 when he died.

Grave of the ancient Gallic warrior as excavated in 2007. Image via Researchgate.
Pottery found in the grave. Image via Researchgate.

Chichester District Council archaeologist James Kenny has never seen such an elaborate grave in his 30 years in the profession.

“This is one of the most exceptional finds in this particular archaeological period and is of international significance,” he said.

“Due to the richness of the finds within the grave, we believe that the mystery warrior held one of the most prestigious roles in the country.”

The ancient warrior is thought to have been either from England or France and that he helped the Gauls in their fight to resist the Romans.

“We will probably never know his name, what we know from the archaeology is that he is either someone from eastern England who may have gone and fought with the Gauls that we know was a problem for Caesar, we were allies with the French, helping them with their struggle against him,” University of Manchester senior lecturer Dr. Melanie Giles told The Telegraph.

“Or he might be a Frenchman himself who flees that conflict, possibly a real-life Asterix and coming to us, just as in Asterix in Britain, to lend us aid in terms of the knowledge he has about strategy, tactics, he knows Caesar is going to try to divide and rule.”

“Asterix” is a series of French comics about a lone Gaul village that resists Roman rule.

Asterix characters from the comics on a wall in Brussels. Image via Wikimedia

“It really is absolutely a unique find in the British Isles and in the wider continent, we don’t have another burial that combines this quality of weaponry and Celtic art with a date that puts it around the time of Caesar’s attempted conquest of Britain,” Giles continued, going on to express her admiration of the warrior.

“He brings that awe and intimidation with him, you can imagine him riding around on horseback, galvanising the local people, training, helping to put in place strategies to try and hold Rome at bay as best as possible,” she said.

“…Also he brings with him his kit, extraordinary weaponry, a beautiful sword which is not like the swords we have, a new technology, style and design and helmet which is absolutely unique with these wonderful Celtic openwork crests which exaggerate his height and make him absolutely fabulous,” said Giles.

The sword, bent to decommission it prior to burial to honor the fallen warrior who wielded it. Image via YouTube.

Kenny also expressed his appreciation for the find.

“What distinguishes this discovery from any other burial in Britain is the breath-taking quality and beauty of the artifacts and the range of his possessions,” he said.

“The warrior had a full suite of weapons, including a stunning sword in a decorated scabbard, a spear and a shield with large bronze boss. One of the most spectacular finds within the burial is the headdress for the helmet. This is decorated with an exquisitely designed bronze openwork crest – a completely unique discovery.”

The warrior’s Celtic headdress, which likely means he was an important figure. Image via YouTube.

Kenny also noted that the bronze helmet would have “shone like gold” and was likely decorated with horse-hair plumes.

The helmet, which would have shined brightly in 50 BC. Image via YouTube.

Chichester District Council Community Services Cabinet member Roy Briscoe hailed the find as an important example of how people mourned and honored the dead during ancient times.

“The mystery warrior was a resistance figure who brought with him the story of war, and strategic military knowledge of how to fight the Roman army,” Briscoe said.

“This is a story that has yet to be told and one which is of great importance locally, nationally and internationally. This exhibition will help museum visitors to explore how locals mourned this legendary military figure through a remarkable send-off.”

Once again, the discovery of an ancient grave is teaching us about the warriors of our past, just like a recently discovered Viking grave has revealed that women were warriors who fought alongside the men. This is why archaeology is an important field. Because learning more about our past helps us learn more about ourselves.

The Iron Age warrior and his gear will be on display in an exhibit that will be open to the public at England’s Novium Museum on January 25, 2020.

See more from The Novium below:

Featured Image: Novium Museum

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