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30 April 2000
Iron Age warrior found with sword and a mirror

A 2,000-year-old bronze mirror and sword unearthed from a single ancient grave on the Isles of Scilly (Great Britain) are prompting scholars to reassess assumptions about men and women in the Iron Age. The mirror is believed to be the oldest found in Britain but English Heritage said that what made the find more extraordinary was that it had previously been assumed that swords were associated with male burials and mirrors with female burials. This is the only known example of an Iron Age grave in northwest Europe to contain both.
      Jeanette Ratcliffe, project manager of the Cornwall Archaeology Unit, which has been conducting the research with English Heritage, among others, said: "This is a phenomenally exciting find of international importance. That a sword and a mirror should be found together raises imporant questions about sex and gender in the Iron Age."
      The buried remains are to be DNA-tested to identify the individual's gender. Ms Ratcliffe said that mirrors in the Iron Age could have had a spiritual function, reflecting the soul of the person buried. The skeleton is likely to be that of an important figure. Other Iron Age graves have generally contained only the odd brooch, bead or piece of pottery. This one includes a brooch, believed to have been attached to a burial garment.
      The mirror, one of only 40 in the world, was unearthed on Bryher Island by the Cornwall Archaeological Unit after the discovery of an iron sword in a bronze scabbard in March last year led to further investigations. Sword burials are equally rare, English Heritage says. The sword, believed to date from between 250BCE and 125BC, is 88cm long.

Source: The Sunday Times (7 April, 2000)

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