Iron Age Warrior Grave found in Clackmannanshire
Scottish Herald - Shan Ross
Builders who were on the brink of using a JCB digger to lay the foundations of a new housing estate have unearthed what may be the richest archaeological find in Scotland. It includes the well-preserved skeleton, sword and valuable adornments of an Iron Age warrior buried with full honours. Experts who announced the discovery of the site at Alloa, Clackmannanshire last night described the grave as one of the most "valuable and exciting" to have been found on these shores.
It is believed that only around 100 such ceremonial Iron Age burials took place in Scotland over 1000 years and, of those, only four had weapons lying alongside the skeleton. Ancient communities disposed of their dead in different ways and the majority of corpses in Iron Age Scotland were put in rivers, left on exposed platforms, or put up trees.
Building work was first halted last Tuesday when workmen uncovered a Bronze Age grave containing the skeleton of a woman along with an ornate food vessel and copper alloy items dating back to between 2500 and 1500BC. However, two days later, the digger uncovered the more important grave.
The Iron Age warrior whose head had been placed on a stone pillow is likely to have been a chief ruling the surrounding kingdom, and appeared to have been aged between 25 and 35 when he died around 200BC to 200AD. His sword had been placed in his hand and surrounding him were valuable toe rings, an ornate copper pin and glass beads. The artefacts indicate that he was a high-ranking powerful individual who would have been able to display great wealth. Archaeological staff, who believe there may be more graves in the vicinity, immediately secured the site to deter vandals.
Ian Ralston, professor of archaeology at Edinburgh University, said that a great deal was already known about the Iron Age in Scotland in terms of hill forts and brochs, but that rituals pertaining to death were still largely undiscovered.
"We can trace Iron Age life in the north-west, the Western Isles and Lowlands, but we still know very little about how they treated their dead." he said. "It is quite amazing to think that this skeleton has turned up by chance, but it replicates a pattern whereby builders can be the ones who make these fantastic finds." Professor Ralston added that such graves were often discovered by farmers ploughing their fields.
Susan Mills, museum and heritage officer for Clackmannanshire Council, said the find was less than 50yds away from a Bronze Age cemetery discovered in 1828. "The later burials of the Iron Age may have been based on some sort of folk memory of the site being used as a burial place. It could have still been regarded as a special place for those who lived in the area," she said. "I also think the graves have been so well preserved because they were protected for years by nursery greenhouses which were demolished in the 1970s."
Paul Duffy, human remains and forensics expert from the archaeology department at Glasgow University, said the site was the greatest find he was likely to come across in his lifetime. He said: "I've worked on many sites throughout my 12 years in the field but these, particularly the Iron Age grave, far outweigh anything I've ever seen."
The skeletons have been taken to Glasgow University for forensic examination, while the precious artefacts found with them have been sent to a specialist firm in Edinburgh.
George Tainsh, director of the £1.5m Ochilview housing development, which plans to build 30 houses on the site, said his company would cooperate fully with archaeological experts to safeguard the graves.
A spokesman for Historic Scotland said: "It is a very significant discovery for our understanding, particularly of Iron Age warriors and warfare and the period immediately preceding the Romans."
Posted by Rhiannon
11th March 2003ce