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Iron Age comes alive for visitors to first day about oldest man in area

Thousands of years of history were brought to life at the site of North Bersted’s most famous person.

 

The initial community day was staged to mark the installation of an information panel about The Mystery Warrior.

 

The panel about the fighting man is located on the spot where the grave of North Bersted Man was found – between the current Bersted Park Community Centre and a children’s play area.

 

It is a location which has become famous across the world of archaeology and has put the area on the map of those interested in the Iron Age period.

 

Bersted Parish Council’s chairman, Cllr Brian Knight, officially marked the panel’s arrival at the special day last Saturday.

 

He said: “The Mystery Warrior, who dates to around 50BC in the Late Iron Age is the most elaborately equipped Iron Age Warrior ever to have been discovered in the UK.

 

“As a long-term legacy of the project, the museum wanted to commemorate the discovery locally and today we are delighted to ‘unveil’ an information plaque about the find.

 

“As a stand here, I think of the people who lived and worked in this area and of the animals that would have roamed around looking for food, water and shelter all those long years ago.

 

“The existence would have meant life without television, the internet, online shopping and no community charge. The only worry was about staying alive and getting your next meal.”

 

The community day was the first of three to be held by Chichester’s Novium Museum to accompany its exhibition about the warrior.

 

Stephanie Thorndyke, the museum’s manager, said: “We’ve had such a great response since the exhibition opened in late January.

 

“There have been thousands of visitors and it has attracted people from all over. They have from London and beyond as well as from overseas – France, Germany and across Europe,” she said.

 

“The Mystery Warrior has gained international recognition throughout the museum community.

 

“He is one of the most important exhibits we have and he will go on permanent display once the current exhibition ends on September 26.

 

“What is really interesting for us is that Chichester was important to the Romans and we love to celebrate that. But this discovery pre-dates that and takes us to a time just before the Romans arrived.”

 

North Bersted Man was discovered in June, 2008, by archaeologist Andy Taylor. He was working on the site, at the eastern end of the current Lakeland Avenue, for a survey before Berkeley Homes began a major house-building scheme.

 

“It was a Friday afternoon and we had just stripped the site, as we had been doing across the area, and I found a dark rectangle.

 

“I thought it must be some sort of grave. So, I covered it up to deal with it the following week and I started to explore it,” he said.

 

What came to light was a once in a lifetime discovery. Fine iron bars and pots at one end of the plot, a bronze helmet with the most elaborate openwork crest and a bronze butterfly-shaped shield next to it.

 

The warrior’s sword was also present in its scabbard along with three tall pottery jars by his head.

 

“Nothing like the crest has ever been found before and we have nothing to compare it with,” said Thames Valley Archaeological Service senior project manager Andy. “I’ve been an archaeologist for 20 years and usually we find bits of broken pottery.”

 

The 5ft 7ins-tall Mystery Warrior is believed to have been 45 when he died around 50BC in an area of farmland.

 

It is likely he had been fighting in the Gallic Wars against Caesar’s invading Roman army as it marched across modern France and Belgium from 58-51BC. But it is unknown why he died in North Bersted.

 

Brothers Charlie Hastings, eight, and Freddie Hastings, six, went to the exhibition with their parents Louise and Jamie Hastings.

 

Keen historian Charlie said: “I like learning about what life was like in the past. I’m looking forward to seeing the exhibition at the museum.”

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