The remains of what is thought could have been an Anglo-Saxon island used as a trading center and dating back to the eighth century has been discovered in Lincolnshire, England. The site has so far yielded hundreds of artefacts, and has been described as “a site of international importance,” which at the time would have had trade links right across the Northern Sea.
The archaeological site was originally discovered by metal detectorist Graham Vickers, who found an ornate silver stylus dating back to the eighth century. After reporting the find to the Portable Antiquities Scheme, which encourages the voluntary reporting of artefacts discovered by members of the public, he returned to the ploughed field and subsequently discovered even more of the writing tools, eventually unearthing another 20 styli.
Not only that, but he also uncovered around 300 dress pins and a huge number of “Sceattas,” thick silver coins used during the seventh and eighth centuries. He also made the incredible discovery of a rare lead writing tablet, still engraved with the female Anglo-Saxon name “Cudberg.” Vickers recorded the GPS location of each of his finds, in order to build up a picture of the ancient settlement, before researchers from the University of Sheffield moved in to survey the site in more detail.
The archaeology department at the university used geophysical and magnetometry, along with 3D modeling, to create an image of the landscape and visualize the surroundings that the settlement would have been in. They found that the island would have been much more obvious back in the eighth century than it is today, rising out of the surrounding landscape. They then digitally recreated the original water level during the Anglo-Saxon period, and saw how the island would have been enclosed between a ditch and basin, connected to the outside world through a network of channels.
The further discoveries of butchered animal bones, pottery, and artefacts related to trading, such as weights, suggests that this was once a high-status Saxon site. “It’s one of the most important sites of its kind in that part of the world,” the University of Sheffield’s Dr. Hugh Willmott told The Guardian. “The quantity of finds that have come from the site is very unusual, it’s clearly not your everyday find.” Whether the settlement was an unknown monastic center or possibly a trading hub is still not clear.
The university has so far dug a number of evaluation trenches, which are already beginning to yield valuable information, with one showing that an area of the island could possibly have been used for industrial working. But these are very early days, and it is hoped that with further excavations the exact use of the settlement will become clear.
Image in text: A glass counter decorated with twisted colorful strands was found at the site. University of Sheffield