Iron Age Warrior with Roman Links Found in U.K.

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While the helmet originated in Gaul—the ancient Roman name for a region of western Europe—it was also worn by Roman soldiers, Creighton noted.

A greater mystery is a large, iron-framed structure that was placed on top of the warrior's body.

The study team suspects the object was a household item intended for use in the afterlife rather than the remains of a coffin.

"My hunch is that it was some usable part of the domestic riches that went into the grave with this chap," Taylor said.

The corroded object may have been a "fire dog," which was used to burn wood inside the home, he suggested.

Roman Alliances

Experts say the burial may provide important new evidence of Roman influence in the region before the Roman conquest of England in A.D. 43.

(See photos of ruins under Rome.)

Alliances forged by the Romans with southern tribal kings after Julius Caesar (see photo) arrived in 55 B.C. are thought to have involved taking hostages.

"One of the tempting and really exciting prospects is that the find might fulfill the theory that the sons of nobility may have been sent to Rome or sent abroad to undertake military training or to complete their education," team member Taylor said.

"It was all part of the empire-building process of that time to secure loyal, high-status client kings in the countries that were to become part of the Roman Empire."

Creighton, of the University of Reading, says the newly discovered grave adds to recent "astonishing finds of metalwork demonstrating a close link between Britain and the Roman world in the years before the conquest."

(Related: "Roman 'Curse Tablet' Discovered in England" [December 5, 2006].)

Astonishing Finds

Scientific analysis of the warrior may reveal more evidence of Roman links, experts say.

"Hopefully, in six months … we'll have a lot more information," Taylor said.

For example, isotope analysis may reveal the chemical signature of the water the warrior drank, which could show if he lived overseas in his youth.

The tests may similarly indicate his diet, according to Steve Ford, director of Thames Valley Archaeological Services, which led the excavation.

"We might also find out what killed him—whether there had been any traumas such as broken bones or knife wounds," Ford said.

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