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17 April 2004
Warrior's grave points to Bronze Age burial site

The discovery of the body of a warrior - thought to have died in battle more than 2,000 years ago - could help archaeologists to pinpoint the site of an ancient holy site. The young warrior, aged about 30, with his spear, a sword, his belt and scabbard, stunned archaeologists who found his stone coffin. The discovery on Marshill, Alloa, last year was hailed as one of the most significant Iron Age finds for decades in Scotland. A copper pin, which once fastened his uniform at the neck, remained, along with rings on two toes and six other rings unlike any found in Scotland before. He was gripping his sword. Experts now believe the hill may have been used for holy ceremonies and burials since the Bronze Age at least 1,500 years earlier.
     An Alloa archaeologist, Susan Mills, who along with experts from Glasgow University discovered the grave, also found the skeleton of a Bronze Age woman buried in 2000 BCE just feet away. More than 20 cremation urns and a cist burial from the Bronze Age were also found there in 1828. A pair of gold bracelets, now on show at the National Museum of Scotland, highlight the importance of those buried in the cemetery, which she believes would once have been marked by a huge cairn.
     Mrs Mills said: "It is not just chance that this warrior was buried in such close proximity to the Bronze Age burial ground. "What is unique is that this site seems to span more than 1,500 years, and those within it seem to have had considerable wealth. "The warrior’s possessions, and the care given to his burial, suggest he was in the upper echelons of his group. Such richly furnished graves are very rare in Scotland. It suggests that this area was regarded as a special, sacred holy ground for more than a millennium. Marshill would have been an ideal location for the pagan communities to site such a significant burial ground, on high land. It is very likely there would have been a cairn so that it could be seen from miles around."
     She said: "The warrior burial is remarkable. Rings from his belt and scabbard have never been found before, so he may have been quite exotic. His specially-made sword blade is 2ft long - much longer than the nearest equivalent found near Falkirk. Although we are not sure exactly how or where he died, his burial site must have been a special place."
     The theory is revealed in the forthcoming edition of Current Archaeology magazine.

Source: The Scotsman (16 April 2004)

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