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3D recreation shows elaborate headdress of Asterix-like Iron Age mystery warrior

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The warrior is believed to have been a refugee French Gallic fighter who fled Julius Caesar’s legionnaires and had a ‘lavish’ burial in about 50BC.

Amy Roberts, collections officer at the Novium Museum

Historians have made a 3D recreation of the elaborate headdress of a real-life Asterix-like resistance fighter whose burial site was discovered on a West Sussex building site.

The skeleton of the Iron Age mystery warrior and the unique glamorous bronze headdress buried with it have gone on display at the Novium Museum in Chichester for the first time.

The warrior is believed to have been a refugee French Gallic fighter who fled Julius Caesar’s legionnaires and was regarded as an important figure who was given a “lavish” burial in about 50BC.

The grave was found during excavations ahead of a housing development in North Bersted in 2008 but it has taken years of conservation and scientific analysis to prepare the artefacts for display.

Dr Melanie Giles, senior lecturer in archaeology at the University of Manchester, told the PA news agency: “He really is a man who lived his life as a warrior figure.

“From the skeleton, we can tell he is a great horse rider and a right-handed sword-wielder.

“He has also got lots of neck damage from wearing this quite ridiculous helmet which frightens the living daylights out of his opponents.

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“He is probably from France, his weaponry is mostly French origin, he probably fought Caesar’s troops, stood his ground as long as possible, but ultimately couldn’t hold back the Roman army.

Remains on display at the Novium Museum
Remains on display at the Novium Museum (Andrew Matthews/PA)

“He was an Asterix figure, an Asterix who couldn’t stay in his little village in Gaul and is welcomed into the arms of his comrades across the Channel because he has got the skill, this is how the Romans work and how they fight.

“And that is why he is made welcome by this local community, they need that knowledge, they know it’s coming, Caesar is trying to conquer them, a storm is coming.

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“He would have been well-respected, we can tell that from the way he was buried.

“The helmet and sword could have been bequeathed as heirlooms, they are useful pieces of kit, but you can’t take them away from him because he is becoming an ancestor who will be remembered and looked to when they have to face these types of fear again.”

She added: “This is the best-equipped weapons burial we have ever found.

“Maybe there is a lesson there about welcoming people who have faced conflict and trauma and we can see there is a resilience there.

“And also a lesson on how we treat our own heroes in our midst and how we welcome them back from conflict.”

James Kenny, Chichester District Council’s archaeologist, said: “What distinguishes this discovery is the breathtaking quality and beauty of the artefacts and the range of his possessions.

“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, supported by a £50,000 National Lottery Heritage Fund grant, is at the museum from January 25 to September 25.

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