Unique and elaborate grave may belong to an Iron Age warrior who joined the struggle against Julius Caesar.

Archaeologists have announced the discovery of “the most elaborately equipped warrior grave ever found in England”.

The warrior, who has been described as a ‘real life Asterix’, was found buried in North Bersted, Sussex, with a helmet, sword, and ornate head-dress. Based on the equipment, they believe he was alive in about 50BC and may have fought with the Gauls and King Commius against Julius Caesar when his legionnaires swept across continental Europe and also attempted to conquer Britain.

Dr Melanie Giles, senior lecturer in archaeology at the University of Manchester says “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”

“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.”

Helmet belonging to an Iron Age warrior, also buried with a sword, head-dress, shield, spear and food for the afterlife. Credit: PA

“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.”

Part of the warrior’s exquisite head-dress. It’s openwork crest would have exaggerated his height and made him look ‘absolutely fabulous’ according to archaeologists. Credit: PA

“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”

The warrior’s sword appears to have been ceremoniously ‘decommissioned’ for the burial – a practice in which weapons were bent or damaged. He was also buried with a shield, spear, and food for the afterlife, as well as other grave goods. Credit: PA

The extraordinary resting place was originally found on a West Sussex building site in 2008 and the finds, which have taken nearly a decade to study and conserve, will go on display at Chichester’s Novium Museum in January 2020. With support from National Lottery Heritage Fund and Berkeley Homes, the special exhibition will tell the story of the warrior’s life and death, and illuminate a critical point in Britain’s history – the years immediately preceding the Roman invasion.

“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. 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” said a statement from the Novium Museum.

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Maiya Pina-Dacier

Head of Community at DigVentures, Maiya digs with a trowel in one hand, and a Twitter feed in the other. She reports on all our discoveries live from the trenches, and keeps our Site Hut full of the latest archaeology news. Got a story? Just drop her a line...

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