Bronze Age skeleton reveals historic secrets

    Racton Man. Image by Peter Langdown
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    Specialists from England, Wales and Scotland have spent months scientifically analysing a Bronze Age skeleton found with one of the earliest bronze weapons discovered in the UK.

    Now believed to be a tribal leader who died in combat, the teeth, bones and dagger of ‘Racton Man’ have been analysed to gain a greater insight into who this man was, how he died and where he was from, plus his age, height and details of his health.

    The research carried out on the Racton Man skeleton makes him significant on a national scale. Scientists have determined that he was buried more than 4,000 years ago and was over 45 at the time of his death.

    Of particular interest is the bronze dagger found in the hands of the skeleton. This is now established as one of the earliest bronze artefacts in the country and is one of only seven ornate rivet studded daggers ever discovered.

    “What makes his dagger so stunning is the rivet studded hilt,” says Dr Stuart Needham, the Bronze Age specialist, who pulled together all of the research. “The dagger would have been made very early in the period of transition when copper tools and weapons gave way to bronze ones. This marked the start of a new technology that depended not only on the control of high temperatures, but also on the sophisticated use of raw materials to create alloys for the first time. The radiocarbon result is even earlier than I had expected for the first bronze implements here.”

    “The results from the research are staggering,” says James Kenny, the Archaeologist at Chichester District Council who originally discovered the skeleton in 1989 near Westbourne, outside Chichester. “We are in a really privileged position because we have all of the facts to hand – from the original excavation to the scientific analysis that has just been carried out. This is very rare for burials around this period.”

    Racton Man is now on display, along with his story, at The Novium Museum in Chichester.

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