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One of the earliest bronze artefacts in the country found in Sussex

PUBLISHED: 10:53 17 February 2015 | UPDATED: 10:53 17 February 2015

Archant

The Bronze Age skeleton, found in Westbourne near Chichester, is known as Racton Man. He was discovered in 1989, but new technology has now determined that the dagger he was carrying in his hand when he died is in fact much older than originally thought, and is one of the first bronze daggers in the UK.

Presumed to be one of our early rulers who died in combat, this exciting new information has taken months of research by specialists from across England, Wales and Scotland, who have been analysing his bones, teeth and dagger.

The new research concludes that the Racton Man was buried more than 4,000 years ago and was over 45 at the time of his death, which makes him significant on a national scale. His dagger is now established as one of the earliest bronze artefacts in the country, and is one of only seven ornate rivet studded daggers ever to have been discovered.

“What makes his dagger so stunning is the rivet studded hilt,” says Dr Stuart Needham, a Bronze Age specialist who has been in charge of the new research. “Its design is distinctively British, but of greater significance is the fact that it dates to the transition from copper to bronze metallurgy. This dagger is bronze and so this item would have been incredibly rare at the time…he would have been a very prominent member of society, someone of great seniority.”

“The results from the research are staggering,” says James Kenny, the Archeologist at Chichester District Council who originally discovered the skeleton in 1989. “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.

“To start with, the fact that this man had a bronze dagger would have been phenomenally rare. This would have been right at the start of the introduction of this type of technology and would have been one of the first bronze daggers in existence in this country.”

Isotope analysis carried out on one of the Racton Man’s teeth by experts from Durham University shows that he could have been brought up in southern Britain, possibly somewhere west of Sussex. Radiocarbon dating of the remains was undertaken by the Scottish Universities Environmental Research Centre in Glasgow suggests that he died sometime around 2300BC to 2150BC. The Racton Man is now on display at The Novium Museum in Chichester.

Admission to The Novium Museum is free (01243 775888; www.thenovium.org)

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