Skeleton and His Dagger Yield a Tale 4.2K Years Old
Tests suggest he was likely a warrior who died in battle
By Elizabeth Armstrong Moore,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 16, 2014 3:58 PM CST
Racton Man was first discovered in 1989.   (Chichester District Council)

(Newser) – He lay on his side, clutching a bronze dagger, undiscovered in a shallow field in the UK for four millennia til a metal detector hit upon his dagger. Then it took another quarter-century for tests to be funded and performed, but they're now telling the story of Racton Man in pretty gritty detail. He lived around 4,200 years ago, was in his 40s at the time of his death, and was likely a prominent warrior who died in battle, reports the Guardian. He managed to live well past the average life expectancy of his time but was suffering the effects (spinal degeneration, tooth decay, and a chronic sinus infection), and the bronze dagger he held is thought to be the earliest ever found in the UK. "Dagger burials of any kind are rare, and these daggers are hens’ teeth rare," says an expert on Bronze Age metalwork. "It was a very short-lived fashion, certainly no more than a few generations."

Thanks to isotope analysis on Racton Man's teeth, scientists say he grew up in southern Britain, and thanks to radiocarbon dating, he was found to have lived during the Bronze Age, reports the BBC. "To think that we can discover such detail about a man who died more than 4,000 years ago, while learning more about the country's history, is just incredible," says Myles Cullen, a cabinet member for the Chichester District Council, which helped fund the research. The bronze dagger is considered exceedingly rare; it includes a wooden hilt, which has rotted away but was once adorned with small, decorative studs that likely sparkled like gold. (Check out what was buried alongside remains found from the same era.)