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Skeleton unearthed in field was a Bronze Age hero

By Tom Bawden

A quarter of a century after his skeleton was unearthed in a Sussex field, 'Racton Man' has finally revealed his secrets, and it turns out he was quite the Bronze Age hero.

Scientific analysis of his bones has revealed he was probably a tribal leader with a giant stature - and may have been killed in combat.

Not only did he tower above his fellow men, coming in at 6ft, but he also outlived most of them by a considerable margin, managing to survive at least 45 years before finally meeting his death through a sword slash near his elbow.

His weapon of choice was also a remarkable - a bronze dagger that represented the ultimate cutting-edge technology and, at 4,200 years of age, is the earliest bronze object ever found in Britain, researchers said.

"The fact that this man had a bronze dagger would have been incredibly rare then. This would have been right at the start of the introduction of this type of technology and would have been one of the first bronze daggers in existence in this country," said James Kenny, the Chichester council archaeologist who discovered the skeleton in the West Sussex hamlet of Racton in 1989.

"He would have been a very prominent member of society, someone of great seniority," added Dr Stuart Needham, a Bronze Age specialist who also worked on the project, adding that his social position may well have depended on him demonstrating his prowess in combat.

The blade of the dagger, with its rivet-studded handle, has been repeatedly sharpened, the researchers said.

Despite being uncharacteristically strong, there are signs that Racton Man's tough life was catching up with him by the end.

Analysis of his bones revealed signs of spinal degeneration, which are thought to be age related, while he was also suffering from chronic sinus infection and arthritis. He is thought to have died some time between 2300BC and 2150 BC.

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