Story of Racton skeleton could be revealed

Racton man when he was discovered
Racton man when he was discovered

A BRONZE Age skeleton which could be of national importance is set to be subject to detailed scientific analysis.

The skeleton – known as Racton Man due to where he was found in the Chichester district – is among only a handful ever discovered from the Bronze Age found buried with a dagger.

The dagger found with Racton Man

The dagger found with Racton Man

Historians believe this could point to the man being a special person such as a king or a priest and that the dagger was used for a special ritual purpose such as sacrifices.

Now, the Novium museum in Chichester, which has the skeleton in its collection, has been awarded a £1,980 grant from the South 
Downs National Park Authority’s sustainable communities fund towards the project cost of uncovering his secrets.

“The precise character of the dagger makes it remarkable at a national level,” said museum’s collections officer Amy Roberts.

“Bronze Age specialists have suggested that certain distinguishing features of the dagger could mean it represents the transitional phase from the Copper Age to the Early Bronze Age (c 2,200-2,100 BC).

“Racton Man really is a bit of a mystery man at the moment. We are excited to find out anything more that we can about him.”

Museum staff hope to discover the age, height and diet of the skeleton, thought to be about 4,000 years old.

Details about the skeleton’s social status, regional or national origins and how he died could also be revealed.

The skeleton was found buried with a dagger in the 1980s on farmland near Westbourne.

Chichester District Council archaeology officer James Kenny was part of the original team which excavated the site.

However, lack of a post-excavation budget meant no follow-up work was ever carried out on the skeleton or the dagger.

“Potentially this scientific analysis will help us to understand who this man was,” said Mr Kenny.

“It is special that he was buried with a dagger as this would have been an extremely early and rare use of metal.

“We can speculate about who this man was – was he a king and a priest?

“Was the dagger used for a special purpose such as sacrifices?”

A number of specialists will now analyse the remains.

An expert from the Institute of Archaeology at University College London will carry out an anatomical study on the skeleton and radiocarbon dating will also be carried out at the National Museum of Scotland.

The project will end with an exhibition at the Novium in September.

Myles Cullen, Chichester District Council’s member for commercial services, said: “While we can never know who Racton Man was as an individual person, anything more that we can discover to shed light on how he lived, where he came from and how he died is going to be fascinating.

“I am delighted that we will be able to share everything the experts discover about him with visitors to The Novium at an exhibition at the conclusion of the project.”