Amateurs discovered an ancient grave that rewrites history

How much do you know about the Roman Occupation in British history? With a long history of war, conquest, and triumph buried deep beneath British soil, there is a lot to learn. Sue and Mick Washington were taking leisurely stroll through the British countryside in 2018 with their metal detectors when an alarming amount of chirping led them to make a discovery shrouded in history. The couple was part of a small club that would scour fields and marshlands in the hopes of finding something valuable.

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Sue Washington with her metal detector
Image Credit: James Mather/Inverse

Along with their friends, they dug out the area and unearthed two ancient bronze bowls. Realizing that their discovery was no ordinary treasure, they reached out to archaeologists at the University of Reading for guidance on what to do next. It was determined through further inspection that these bowls were just the cusp of what was yet to be discovered.

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Read: Metal detectorist discovers medieval wedding ring worth an estimated $47,000

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A lot more than what meets the eye

In 2022, while continuing to excavate the land, archaeologists made an astounding announcement. The site held the remains of an Anglo-Saxon man dating back almost 1,500 years. His gravesite held many treasures. He was buried with ornately decorated scabbards and swords which suggests he may have been an ancient noble warrior.

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He must have also towered over all of his piers as he measured in at 6 feet tall. The average 6th-century man measured 5 foot 5 inches in comparison. Dubbed the “Marlow Warlord”, archaeologists are yet to publish any data about the warrior and all of his treasures. Gabor Thomas, a man who specializes in all things related to Medieval Archaeology at the University of Reading has released a statement. “The word that comes to mind is pretty butch,” Thomas said.

The find could change our concept of history about the people who came after the Romans receded from Britain

[The burial] suggests that the people living in this region may have been more important than historians previously suspected,” Thomas said. The ancient warrior was surprisingly discovered in a section of the Thames valley. “He’s buried north-south, that’s his orientation, but directly overlooking the River Thames,” he said. “He is positioned deliberately to look over that territory.”

The location lies between London and Oxford. It was previously believed that the area was a borderland between thriving societies established in London and Oxford during the Roman Occupation. “Being macho at this period … it was a significant part of people’s lives,” Thomas said. Suggesting that he must have been quite wealthy, possibly a tribal leader.

The Marlow Warlord changes that theory, suggesting that these borderlands may have had their very own distinct societies too. This would shift an entire chapter in history and mean a complete revamp of textbooks. “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. At various periods in the Anglo-Saxon centuries it was contested between neighboring kingdoms,” Thomas said.

Powerful tribes ran through the ancient lands

“What this burial suggests is that [this area] had its own identity as a powerful tribal unit before these kingdoms muscled in.” The archaeologists are learning about the discovered man’s diet, health, and geographical origins, and once better understood, the warrior will provide us with a glimpse into a world we only thought we knew.

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Prof Helena Hamerow, of the University of Oxford, who was not involved in the work, said the discovery was significant. “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,” she said. Adding that “some of the grave goods were likely to have been imported from what was now northern France or the Rhineland.

“Both the location and grave goods seem to be designed to project the power and importance of that individual.” The University is currently fundraising to help preserve these priceless artifacts for future generations to learn from and enjoy.

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Video Credit: University of Reading YouTube

Sources

  1. AMATEURS DISCOVERED AN ANCIENT GRAVE THAT REWRITES HISTORY.” Inverse. Sarah Wells, December 21, 2020.
  2. Archaeologists unearth remains believed to be of Anglo-Saxon warlord.” The Guardian. Nicola Davis. October 5, 2020
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