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Helmet and headdress found with the warrior-priest. Source: (The Novium Museum/ Chichester District Council)

Ancient Celtic Warrior-Priest Is Displayed In England - His Grave Goods Might Hold Deep Lunar Secrets

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A glorious 2,000-year-old Iron Age ‘warrior’, who might have fought against Julius Caesar during the wars against the Gaulish tribes in Britannia (Britain), was unveiled at Fishbourne Roman Palace yesterday (Monday July 22), but was he only a ‘warrior’?

An extraordinary exhibition will open in England’s Novium Museum on January 25, 2020 which will feature “the most elaborately equipped warrior’s grave ever found in England” which was discovered 12 years ago in Berkeley Homes' Bersted Park development.

The unique headwear including helmet and headdress gives conflicting evidence of the man being a warrior or priest. (The Novium Museum/ Chichester District Council)

The unique headwear including helmet and headdress gives conflicting evidence of the man being a warrior or priest. (The Novium Museum/ Chichester District Council)

Dating to around 50 BC, archaeologist for Chichester District Council, James Kenny, told the Chichester Observer “In more than 30 years of archaeology this is the most spectacular discovery that I have witnessed” and he added “We believe that the mystery warrior held one of the most prestigious roles in the country”.

A 2014 paper by Thames Valley Archaeological Services, and published on ResearchGate, presents the osteological (bone) analysis of this late Iron Age skeleton and it suggests he might have been “a warrior or priest” because he was buried “ceremonially with unique headwear” and pots were laid around his helmet.

Pots were laid around the Celtic warrior-priest along with other grave goods. (The Novium Museum/ Chichester District Council)

What’s more; his sword, spear, and shield had all been broken which the Chichester Observer says is a form of “decommissioning of the items”; meaning the weapons were deliberately destroyed with their master when he died.

Measuring Up The Gaulish Warrior?

The 2015 analysis of the man revealed he was about 5"4' (162.6 centimeters) in height and was roughly 45 when he died. His “disproportionately large arm” was probably caused with the repeated wielding of swords or throwing of spears, and his “strong legs” indicated that he used his weapons from the back of a horse.

The helmet was part of the graves goods found. (The Novium Museum/ Chichester District Council)

Dr. Melanie Giles is a senior lecturer in archaeology at The University of Manchester and she told the Chichester Observer,“it was apparent the man had a 'hard-life' but there was no sign of a traumatic injury that may have killed him”.

The body was discovered “fully extended, orientated NW (head) to SE (feet)” and the skull had been displaced from its natural position and was found to the left of the body. The left upper arm had also been dislocated from the shoulder. This was either caused the warriors shield/helmet/bronze artifacts bearing weight on the left forearm or the upper body was “raised at the time of burial and perhaps set on a pillow”.

Burial site of Celtic warrior-priest. (Ceir Falys / Fair Use)

Burial site of Celtic warrior-priest. (Ceir Falys / Fair Use)

James Kenny told the Chichester Observer “this legendary military figure was a resistance figure who brought with him the story of war, and strategic military knowledge of how to fight the Roman army”. The conclusion that the man was a warrior, however, doesn’t altogether account for his “spectacular headdress” which is decorated with an exquisitely designed bronze openwork crest, which Mr. Kenny calls “a completely unique discovery”.

Bronze headdress found at the Bersted Park burial. (The Novium Museum/ Chichester District Council)

The Celts loved war and if one wasn’t kicking off they'd be sure to instigate one. The Celtic warrior classes dressed as fiercely as possible which is evident in the golden shields, breastplates, helmets, and trumpets found in their graves, but elaborate headdresses are more often found in priestly burials. Therefore, the question is being asked as to whether or not this headdress indicates that the man was a warrior-priest?

Warrior? Priest? Or, Warrior-Priest?

Today, the idea of a holy-man dropping his spiritual tools and fighting with weapons is highly counter intuitive, and such concepts appear only in pop-culture; the Jedi Order is a fictional monastic organization in the epic Star Wars franchise where in times of peace the ‘warriors’ forged deep spiritual connections with ‘all living things’, but when evil rolls in those brown cloaked light-saber wielding monks kick some ‘empire ass’.

Jedi, are mythological archetypal reflections of ancient institutions such as the Shaolin Monastery of ancient China which was renowned for its meditative monks who were also experts in the martial arts. Other organizations of ‘warrior monks’ were the medieval Knights TemplarKnights Hospitaller, and Teutonic Knights whose members devoted their lives to worship, but as soon as the smell of gold wafted into their abbeys and churches, during the Crusades for example, they dropped their crosses and became sword wielding warriors of God.

The sword has been bent in half to ‘kill’ it before burial. (The Novium Museum/ Chichester District Council)

The British Museum exhibit a “unique bronze crown” excavated within a 200 - 150 BC burial in Deal, Kent, known as the “Deal Warrior”. Buried with a sword and shield the bronze crown is thought to be similar to images of "Romano-British priests several centuries later” which leads archaeologists to speculate that the warrior “might have been a Druid”.

The Druids were a super-class of Celtic priest who served as political advisors, judges, teachers, healers, and astronomers and they acted as commanders in time of war. It might be the case that this newly exhibited warrior, with his elaborate headdress, had one foot on the battlefield and one foot in ‘the force’? Was he a warrior-priest?

Gaul soldiers are led by a warrior-priest. (SF007 / Public Domain)

Invoking The Druids Moon Goddess

This Irish Central article discusses the Coligny calendar, now in the Palais des Arts in Lyon, France, which is the “earliest-known Celtic calendar” from the 1st century. Constructed with ‘bronze’ fragments it is divided in two halves representing summer and winter and each month begins with the ‘full moon’ and covers ‘a 30-year cycle’ comprising five cycles of 62 lunar months, and one of 61 which was used by Druids to predict eclipses as well as the tides as natural consequences.

Now look at the bronze head dress again, but rather than gazing upon its mesmeric geometric composition, count its parts. It is ‘divided in two halves’, maybe representing the summer and winter. Further, more, if you count the circles around its outer rim there are ‘30’; which might represent the Druid’s ‘30-year moon cycle’. Going by the numbers, it looks like this fellow was indeed a Jedi, sorry, I meant a Celtic ‘warrior priest’, who when buried was glorified with a crown of the moon goddess.

Top image: Helmet and headdress found with the warrior-priest. Source: (The Novium Museum/ Chichester District Council)

By Ashley Cowie

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Ashley is a Scottish historian, author, and documentary filmmaker presenting original perspectives on historical problems in accessible and exciting ways.

He was raised in Wick, a small fishing village in the county of Caithness on the north east coast of... Read More

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