‘Mystery Warrior: The North Bersted Man’ at The Novium Museum, Chichester, UK


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The secrets of an Iron Age warrior, who may have fought alongside King Commius during Julius Caesar’s wars with the Gauls, will finally be told through a major exhibition at The Novium Museum, Chichester.

'Mystery Warrior: The North Bersted Man' at The Novium Museum, Chichester, UK
The helmet and headdress of the Bersted Man will be on display for the first time
[Credit: Chichester District Council]

The ‘mystery warrior’ was discovered 12 years ago in Berkeley Homes’ Bersted Park development, in the most elaborately equipped warrior grave ever found in England. It has been dated to around 50BC, in the late Iron Age.

The exhibition has been made possible due to Berkeley Homes generously donating the finds, a £50,000 grant from the National Lottery Heritage Fund, and signature sponsorship from Irwin Mitchell.

Due to its significance, a team of world class experts has been working with The Novium Museum to analyse and interpret the finds to tell the story of this incredible individual.

'Mystery Warrior: The North Bersted Man' at The Novium Museum, Chichester, UK
Late Iron Age warrior grave excavated, 2008 [Credit: Thames Valley
Archaeological Services]

James Kenny, Chichester District Council’s archaeologist, was one of the first people to view the grave when it was discovered in North Bersted,

“In more than thirty years of archaeology this is the most spectacular discovery that I have witnessed. Thanks to scientific research, analysis and the involvement of world-renowned archaeological experts, the story of the mystery warrior just gets better.

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

'Mystery Warrior: The North Bersted Man' at The Novium Museum, Chichester, UK
Bronze headdress recomposed [Credit: Steve Parsons/PA]

“What distinguishes this discovery from any other burial in Britain is the breath-taking quality and beauty of the artefacts and the range of his possessions. 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 ‘Mystery Warrior: The North Bersted Man’ exhibition will open on 25 January 2020 and will be the first time that this extraordinary Iron Age Warrior and his burial possessions will be on public display. The exhibition will explore the life, health and death of this fascinating man. It will attempt to explain some of the questions that have been raised by the circumstances of his burial. It will illuminate a critical point in Britain’s history – the years immediately preceding the Roman invasion, when the south coast was at the heart of the great events that ultimately shaped Britain as a nation.

'Mystery Warrior: The North Bersted Man' at The Novium Museum, Chichester, UK
Bronze helmet buried with late Iron Age warrior, ca. 50 BC
[Credit: Steve Parsons/PA]

“Thanks to the National Lottery Heritage Fund, Berkeley Homes and Irwin Mitchell, we are able to tell this fascinating story,” says Cllr Roy Briscoe, Cabinet Member for Community Services and Culture at Chichester District Council.

“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.

'Mystery Warrior: The North Bersted Man' at The Novium Museum, Chichester, UK
Bent sword and scabbard [Credit: Joe Stack,
Sussex Newspapers]

Stuart Hobley, Area Director London & South at the National Lottery Heritage Fund, said: “The life of the Mystery Warrior and the stories he can tell of Iron Age Britain are set to be revealed thanks to the money raised by National Lottery players. A part of our heritage with international significance and now one that the community in which he was found can finally get to the heart of. We’re delighted and excited to support this incredible project.”

Daniel Cooper, Managing Director of Berkley Homes said: “We are delighted to donate this historic find to The Novium Museum in order to ensure that the assemblage remains in its local collecting area. It is one of the most significant archaeological discoveries to have been made at one of our sites, and will help connect residents of Bersted Park to the internationally significant heritage of the site.’

Paula James, Regional Managing Partner of Irwin Mitchell’s Chichester office, adds: “We are absolutely delighted to be the signature sponsor for this incredible new exhibition about the Mystery Warrior, which is undoubtedly one of the most significant archaeological finds in many years.

“Having previously supported the Novium Museum on its 2017 Tim Peake exhibition, this latest partnership reinforces our commitment to supporting local businesses and investing in Chichester’s future.

“We hope the Mystery Warrior will bring new visitors from near and far to see the exhibition and that they will enjoy visiting this splendid and historic city.”

Source: The Novium Museum [September 01, 2019]



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