Archaeologists have uncovered an "extraordinary" Anglo-Saxon burial site in Britain that dates back 1,600 years. Its 20 occupants are surrounded by ancient treasures such as amber beads, silver rings, and even a pair of tweezers.
Specialists became aware of the site when a local metal detectorist began finding various metal goodies, from copper-gilded brooches to ancient spearheads. These artifacts were reminiscent of those generally found at Anglo-Saxon burial sites, so archaeologists began digging to uncover any remaining artifacts before the area could be damaged by agriculture.
The dig took place in the village of Scremby, Lincolnshire, in England’s East Midlands and was led by the University of Sheffield’s Department of Archaeology.
“Almost without exception, the burials were accompanied by a rich array of objects, in keeping with the funerary rites adopted during the early centuries of the Germanic migrations to eastern England,” said the University of Sheffield’s Dr Hugh Wilmott in a statement.
The various graves were found to contain jewelry, brooches, bags, and weapons. What’s more, the women appear to have been held in high regard as the artifacts surrounding them were particularly extravagant.
“What is particularly interesting is the significant proportion of very lavish burials that belonged to women. These women wore necklaces made from sometimes hundreds of amber, glass, and rock crystal beads, used personal items such as tweezers, carried fabric bags held open by elephant ivory rings, and wore exquisitely decorated brooches to fasten their clothing,” said Willmott.
“Two women even received silver finger rings and a style of silver buckle commonly associated with Jutish communities in Kent. Furnished burials belonging to males were also identified, including a number buried with weaponry such as spears and shields.”
The presence of ivory is particularly of note since it would have come all the way from sub-Saharan Africa, an impressive distance given how long ago these people lived. Speaking to The Guardian, Willmott likened it to coming “from the Moon”.
The findings suggest that not only were women perhaps highly valued, but that people living in this era saw importance in appearance and decoration. Maybe the pair of tweezers found in one of the graves allowed its occupant to shape her eyebrows in the afterlife.
While the graves uncovered all belonged to adults, not children, one contains a mother cradling her baby in her left arm. Like many others found in the excavation, the woman is “richly dressed”.
The archaeologists will now conduct in-depth analyses of the bones, teeth, and artifacts that they've unearthed. They hope to find out where these people grew up, what they ate, and which species of elephant the ivory was obtained from.
“The project’s multi-faceted investigation which incorporates cutting-edge scientific techniques will enable Sheffield archaeologists to ask and answer significant questions about early Anglo-Saxon communities in eastern England,” said bioarchaeologist Dr Katie Hemer.
The excavation will feature on BBC4’s Digging for Britain at 9pm GMT, November 28, in the UK.