Chesil mirror appeal

Posted on Wednesday, November 21 2012

The discovery of the burial of a woman who lived almost 2,000 years ago has brought us face to face with one of the most dramatic times in Dorset’s history. The 17–25 year old woman who was buried near Chesil died shortly after the Roman invasion of Britain in AD 43. Her mourners placed an array of jewellery in her grave in one of the richest burials yet found in Dorset. As well as glass beads and a bronze bangle there was also a mirror. The back of the mirror is finely decorated with Iron Age Celtic art.

The grave was found by a metal–detector user. When he reported the discovery Bournemouth University promptly undertook an excavation to make sure that the find was carefully lifted and fully recorded. Now Dorset County Museum is campaigning to raising funds to buy and conserve this important find.

Dr Miles Russell, Senior Lecturer in Prehistoric and Roman Archaeology, Bournemouth University said, “Although damaged, this is one of the finest pieces of Celtic Art yet recovered from the British Isles, the reverse of the bronze mirror being covered with an incredibly intricate pattern of carefully incised, swirling abstract loops. Created over 2,000 years ago, this highly personal artefact would undoubtedly have been the prized possession of a wealthy native aristocrat who lived long enough to see the Roman army invade and occupy her homeland. The discovery, excavation, recording and reporting of the find was a model co–operation between the metal detectorist who first made the find, the landowner and archaeologists from both Dorset County Council and Bournemouth University and was acknowledged as such in the bi–annual Dorset Archaeological awards of 2011.”

In a lecture to be given at the museum on Friday 30th November, Professor Andrew Fitzpatrick, who is an authority on the Iron Age, will tell the story of the discovery and explain the how it adds to our understanding of Iron Age and Roman Dorset.

The county is famous for spectacular hillforts like Maiden Castle but there is a wealth of other Iron Age sites and many important objects from this time are displayed in Dorset County Museum. These sites and finds make Dorset one of the most distinctive and important areas of Iron Age Britain.

At the beginning of history the people of Dorset were called the Durotriges. Unlike many neighbouring tribes, the Durotriges did not surrender to the Roman army. One of the bloodiest campaigns in the conquest for Roman Britain was fought between the Durotiges and the Roman army of Vespasian. The Chesil woman will have been a witness to this dramatic time in Dorset’s past and the discovery of her grave brings us face to face with history.

Tickets for the Chesil Mirror lecture cost £10 and are available from the Museum Shop on 01305 756827. For further information, please email The lecture starts at 7.30pm and doors open at 7.00pm.