Newly found grave of Anglo-Saxon warlord could rewrite history of post-Roman Britain
The grave of an Anglo-Saxon warlord discovered by a metal detectorist could rewrite the history of post-Roman Britain, archeologists have said.
The ‘Marlow Warlord’ has been found buried on a hilltop above the Thames valley alongside highly decorated spears, shears, dress fittings and other paraphernalia.
The six-foot soldier, who was aged between 40 and 50 when he was buried, is proof that there was a “powerful tribe in the area”, according to researchers at the University of Reading.
The area in which the warlord was found was previously considered to be a ‘no man’s land’ without any fixed boundaries of its own - between the kingdom of Kent to the south and east and Wessex to the west and the north.
However the new findings have shown that the area was in fact home to its own power base, which was later absorbed by a larger kingdom, and home to a tribe of its own - led by the newly discovered warlord.
Archaeologists were called in to complete an excavation of the pagan site, which has been undisturbed since the sixth century, after Sue Washington, 64, discovered two bronze bowls during a metal detection in 2018.
A full survey and excavation was then carried out this August after archaeologists obtained the permission of the current landowner.
“There was a period of transition after the collapse of the Roman Empire where before you had your big kingdoms coming on the scene, there were these smaller territories ruled over by warlords,” said Dr Gabor Thomas, a specialist in early medieval archaeology at Reading.
“You’ve got these local ‘big men’ controlling these territories, lots of power bases of fairly equal standing, and what happens over time is they get absorbed."
Dr Thomas said that very little was previously known about this area of the Thames and its significance, but “we can now say there was a powerful tribe living in the area, with its own leaders and identity”.
He believes the warlord in question was "very likely to have been a warrior in his own right".
There has been a lack of documentary evidence following the collapse of the Roman Empire around 400AD, and so the new discovery gives further information with regards to the local tribes and kingdoms that filled the ensuing power vacuum.
Further analysis of the remains of the warlord will be carried out to determine his exact age, in addition to his diet, health, and geographic origins.
The find has made Dr Thomas “optimistic” that further such evidence will soon emerge which can add to expert and public understanding of what the Dark Ages were like.
“Only by partnering with local detectorists and local groups have we been able to really make the most of this find,” he said.
“Through collaborations like this, working between experts and volunteers, we can begin to make more of these new discoveries.”