The Mystery Warrior

Preserving the past Apr 28, 2020

In January 2020, Chichester museum The Novium opened The Mystery Warrior, a spectacular new exhibition revealing the secrets of an Iron Age warrior who may have fought alongside King Commius during Julius Caesar's wars with the Gauls.

In the months leading up to the opening, our collections team worked closely with the team from The Novium to select objects dating to the Iron Age from our collections to go on loan for display in the exhibition. The collections that we care for are particularly rich in objects from the Iron Age, the most well-known being the results of 25 years of excavations by Professor Sir Barry Cunliffe at Danebury Hillfort, many of which are displayed in Andover's Museum of the Iron Age.

The loan consists of a wide range of objects which allow Novium visitors to find out about the everyday lives of our Iron Age ancestors over 2000 years ago. Loomweights, spindle whorls, weaving combs and bone tools are clues to weaving, spinning and textile production and iron tools point to carpentry, farming and cooking. Small glass beads were worn for decoration and clay sling bullets are evidence of warfare. Iron ingots known as currency bars and reconstructed pottery jars were also loaned.

A star item in the loan is a rare openwork bronze disc, found at Danebury Hillfort, evidence of fine metalworking in a Celtic art style of interlocking motifs similar to that seen in the mystery warrior's helmet.

Openwork bronze disc from Danebury Hillfort

Mystery Warrior: The North Bersted Man features arguably the most elaborate furnished burial of an Iron Age warrior ever discovered in Britain, dating to about 50BC and discovered in 2008 in West Sussex. The warrior was buried with a sword, a shield, a spear and an incredibly fine crested helmet.

Reconstruction of the Mystery Warrior's helmet. Image: Allan Hutchings

The exhibition tells the story of the warrior and his times and uses the latest research and scientific analysis to try to answer some key questions. Who was this mystery warrior? Where did he come from? How did he come to be given such an elaborate burial?

The Mystery Warrior displays are currently closed due to the lockdown, but The Novium is planning to extend the dates of the exhibition so that you will have an opportunity to see it once the museum reopens.

In the meantime, the Novium team has created a digital tour of the exhibition, including the objects on loan from Hampshire Cultural Trust.

The Novium Museum - Mystery Warrior Exhibition Virtual Tour

The exhibition and accompanying programme has been made possible thanks to Berkeley Group generously donating the artefacts, a £50,000 grant from National Lottery Heritage Fund and signature sponsorship from Irwin Mitchell

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Hampshire Cultural Trust

From museums to galleries to arts centres, we manage and support 23 attractions across the county, welcoming over 740,000 people each year. Our charitable purpose is changing lives through culture.

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