The grave of an Iron Age “warrior” buried 2,000 years ago has been discovered in West Sussex.

The incredibly rare find is one of only a handful known in the South of England and dates back to the late Iron Age or early Roman period (first century BC to AD50).

An iron spear and a sword in a highly decorated scabbard were found inside the grave, but the skeleton had not survived.

The discovery was made by a team from Archaeology South East (ASE), part of University College London, during excavations ahead of the building of 175 new homes near Chichester.

Archaeologists are working to find out more about the identity and social status of the individual.

Jim Stevenson, who is managing the post-excavation investigations into the burial, said: There has been much discussion generally as to who the people buried in the ‘warrior’ tradition may have been in life.

Were they really warriors, or just buried with the trappings of one?

Although the soil conditions destroyed the skeleton, the items discovered within the grave suggest that the occupant had been an important individual.

Studies of the sword and scabbard found copper-alloy decoration at the scabbard mouth, which would have been highly visible when the sword was in use.

An X-ray of the items revealed dotted lines which may be the remains of a studded garment worn by the individual when they were buried.

Archaeologists say this is an exciting discovery as evidence of clothing is rarely found.

The remains of a wooden container, believed to have been used to lower the individual into the grave, were also discovered.

Four ceramic jars made from local clays had been placed outside the container, but still within the grave.

They would have been used for food preparation, cooking and storage, and were likely placed inside the grave as containers for funerary offerings – perhaps to sustain the deceased in the afterlife.

(c) Sky News 2020: ‘Rare’ 2,000-year-old grave of Iron Age warrior discovered in West Sussex