Amateur metal detectorists stumble upon 1,400-year-old grave of Saxon warlord

Metal detectorists who hunt for items underground as a hobby stumbled across the grave of an Anglo-Saxon warlord.

They unearthed the rich burial site of a sixth-century man thought to be a warlord who was buried with several weapons.

Dubbed the "Marlow Warlord" the 1,400-year-old skeleton reveals he would have been six feet tall, which was much higher than the average male height in Britain of that time at five-foot seven.

Archaeologist Gabor Thomas, from the University of Reading, led the excavations at the site, which overlooks the central Thames Valley.

He said the burial, which was found near the Berkshire town where the warlord received his name, shed new light on the politics of the region.

Before now, it was thought to be a 'borderland' between large Anglo-Saxon communities around London and Oxford, only decades after the collapse of roman rule in Britain.

The new discovery suggests the region was more important than historians suspected.

The burial site and the rich grave goods found with the Marlow Warlord are evidence of his prestige, Thomas told Live Science.

He said: "They're making a clear statement about this individual's leadership of this local tribe that lives in the area."

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Sue and Mike Washington, two amateur metal detectorists from the area, discovered the ancient grave back in 2018.

They had made three trips to the site, which their equipment showed what appeared to be buried iron, something they thought was probably fairly recent.

But on their last visit they unearthed two bronze bowls and realising the significance of their find, registered them with the Portable Antiquities Scheme (PAS) run by the British Museum and the National Museum of Wales.

A PAS archaeologist investigated and recovered bronze bowls and a pair of iron spearheads and suggested it could be an Anglo-Saxon grave.

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A full excavation followed in August and revealed the skeletal remains of the Marlow Warlord, alongside the sword and other grave goods.

The sword is made of iron and is held in a decorated scabbard made of bronze, leather and wood.

The scabbard showed a cut-mark where it might have been damaged by a warrior on foot who struck the wearer seated on horseback.

The bowls found were imported from what is now known as Belgium or France, suggesting he had far-reaching connections.

Archaeologists believe the sword was made by an expert craftsman and the glass vessel unearthed was a rare find from the period.

Thomas and the university are running a crowdfunding campaign to carry out chemical and generic tests to firmly date the age of the grave.

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