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East Lothian


Exceptional find' of Iron Age warrior

THE remains of an Iron Age warrior have been found in Dunbar – only the third grave of its kind in Scotland. Archaeologists were called to the old Empire Cinema site, off the High Street, which is currently being developed into flats. The well-preserved grave contains the remains of a warrior as well as an iron spearhead, sword and what is believed to be a pin. Archaeologists believe an earlier burial had been moved from its original position to accommodate the warrior before being put back, to create a double burial.

East Lothian Council heritage officer Biddy Simpson described the find as "extraordinary and exceptional". "Although similar multiple burials have been found in the vicinity of Dunbar, this burial was of very high quality and is the first one to be excavated using modern archaeological techniques. The quality of the grave construction and the items within the grave strongly suggest that it was a high status burial, the finding of which is incredibly important," she said.

Staff from Loanhead-based AOC Archaeology were drafted in to work on the site. Project officer Mike Roy said it was an extremely unusual site and unlike anything he had previously excavated. He added that the findings suggested the occupants were of "considerable status".

Ronan Toolis, senior project officer with AOC Archaeology, explained that the two other Iron Age warrior graves had been excavated in Alloway and Camelon, near Falkirk. "The Dunbar site is a real treasure trove," he said. "It is rare for a prehistoric burial to be found in a town like this."

The area has now been fully excavated and the remains will be analysed by specialists. Mr Toolis added that they would know more once DNA analysis and carbon dating of the bones were carried out. It may also be possible to establish the area from which the warrior came, by analysing his teeth. Dental tests could reveal traces of chemicals which had been present in the water he drank at that time, which would in turn point to a certain geographical location.

A late medieval well was also discovered during the excavation.

Gordon Easingwood, from Dunbar Local History Society said that the warrior grave was "obviously a significant find" and that he would be interested to find out more once the tests were completed. During the 1980s, the remains of an Iron Age promontory fort were discovered during excavations in the town. It is believed that this helped to date the origins of Dunbar to at least the 1st-4th centuries AD.
nickbrand Posted by nickbrand
21st November 2005ce
Edited 10th September 2007ce

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