Conservation of the skull and crown of the 'Deal Warrior'

The crushed and damaged skull

What did the warrior tell the conservator?

During burial, the skull of the Deal Warrior had been crushed. The top, and part of the bronze head-dress, had been lost. The bronze was no longer the golden colour it would have been in the warrior's lifetime, but a dull, rough green, its original brightness hidden by layers of soil and corrosion.

In the British Museum conservation laboratory a conservator removed the hard soil that held the objects together.

The skull was dismantled, the pieces cleaned, and the crumbling edges consolidated. It was reconstructed using a reversible adhesive to join the fragments. Several missing areas were filled with plaster, coloured to match the bone. This 'gap-filling' supports the skull, which was fragile after centuries in the ground.

Warrior in his graveThe crown corroded and dirtyThe skull dismantled

An X-ray of the head-dress showed decoration on the bronze, hidden under soil and corrosion. Working with a scalpel, under a microscope, a conservator removed these layers to reveal the original surface with its fine design. After a chemical treatment to inhibit further corrosion, the head-dress was repaired with adhesive and given a protective coating of lacquer.

Conservator cleaning the crownDetail of the designX-ray showing the design

The conservator did not remove corrosion from the inside of the headband because, while examining it under the microscope, she found evidence of human hair preserved in the corrosion. Magnified in a scanning electron microscope, these traces show that the warrior had fine, straight hair. Study of his other bones revealed that he was aged between thirty and thirty-five, short and slightly built.

SEM picture of hair inside the crownThe crown cleaned and repairedSkull and crown

Images (from top, left to right):

The crushed and damaged skull
Warrior in his grave
The crown corroded and dirty
The skull dismantled
Conservator cleaning the crown
Detail of the design
X-ray showing the design
SEM picture of hair inside the crown
The crown cleaned and repaired
The skull reconstructed

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