It’s not everyday you dig up a warlord in Berkshire.
But that’s exactly what happened when archaeologists uncovered the remains of a male skeleton, in what was believed to be his final resting place.
The burial site also contained a number of weapons next to what appears to be the body of an Angelo-Saxon warrior. Dr. Gabor Thomas, who led the excavation, and is a specialist in medieval archaeology at the University of Reading, recovered the remains from a field in Berkshire. The skeleton was first discovered in August, two years after metal detectors had found bronze bowls in the same location and subsequently informed experts.
Various weaponry was uncovered, including spears and a sword with its scabbard, and is said to have brought to the surface new information regarding local tribes from the sixth century.
The fact this person, who was believed to be around six feet tall and of muscular build, was surrounded by weapons had often generated debate whether these tribespeople were warriors or if the items are more of a symbolic gesture.
Theorising the man’s status, Thomas said: ‘Being macho at this period… it was a significant part of people’s lives.’
This particular body, that of the Marlow Warlord, was buried away from everyone else in the community who was laid to rest in a local cemetery and his importance is therefore suggested due to a number of factors.
‘He’s buried north-south, that’s his orientation, but directly overlooking the River Thames,’ Thomas confirmed. ‘He is positioned deliberately to look over that territory.’
Combining the unique burial, weaponry, and his wealth, it is believed he was a tribal leader: ‘We know from later historical sources and bits of archaeology that [this sweep of the Thames that runs through Marlow and Maidenhead] was a kind of borderland,’ the archaeologist confirmed. ‘At various periods in the Anglo-Saxon centuries it was contested between neighbouring kingdoms.’
‘What this burial suggests is that [this area] had its own identity as a powerful tribal unit before these kingdoms muscled in,’ he went on to say, which solidifies what they attest in their findings.
Buckinghamshire County Museum in Aylesbury will house the spears and bronze bowls, while the other site remains hope to be taken there once further analysis has been completed, including determining the man’s age and any diseases he may have had, on top of the already noted arthritis.
‘We have few if any burials of that period from the middle Thames region that are so richly furnished, especially in comparison with the lower Thames and upper Thames,’ Oxford University’s Prof Helena Hamerow added.
Despite having no direct involvement in the dig, she could determine that some of the uncovered goods were likely to have been imported from regions in northern France.
‘Both the location and grave goods seem to be designed to project the power and importance of that individual,’ she went on to say, strengthening the conclusion that man was, in modern lingo, a pretty big deal.
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Topics: Science, Archaeology
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