Berkeley’s history stretches further back
A RARE and mint condition Anglo-Saxon artefact has brought archaeologists closer to dating Berkeley’s history further back than ever before.
In their penultimate week of digging at the Jenner Museum in Berkeley, a team of archaeology students from Bristol University have uncovered some items that have brought them close to fully understanding the history of the site.
As they suspected an Anglo-Saxon minster, which is a closed religious community, was in Berkeley, under the Jenner Garden and around the Castle. If they can officially date it then it will be the first ever predominantly female Anglo-Saxon minster excavated in Britain.
Bringing them ever closer to that conclusion was the discovery of a mint condition belt strap-end last week, which is the decorative shape of a dragon’s head from the 9th to 10th century.
It was found by an archaeo-detectionist from Thornbury, Peter Twinn, who is doing a part-time degree course in archaeology.
“It is a fantastic find for this project because it was exactly what we were looking for, something to date the area,” said Peter.
Dr Stuart Prior, archaeology lecturer leading the dig with Prof Mark Horton, said: “This is an absolutely beautiful item, it is in mint condition and very rare indeed.
“This time we have really been able to understand the history of the site and it is very exciting,” he added.
The team have uncovered a road, called St Michael’s Lane, in the paddock behind St Mary’s Church, surrounded by Anglo-Saxon buildings that would have been inside the minster. In the Jenner Garden 1,000 years of history appear in 40cm of soil with sub-Roman debris, under a Saxon wall that was later knocked down and the bricks re-used to build Berkeley Castle. Visiting the site this week was local historian David Tandy who wrote a book in 2004 entitled ‘Berkeley a town in the marshes’ in which he researched and wrote about much of the history being discovered by the archaeology students.
“At the back of the book I wrote that Berkeley had a hidden history – it has been hidden from us. Now it is being discovered,” said Mr Tandy, 72, from Newport.
“Stuart and the team turned up and started to unravel what I had written, I only really got to the Norman times, they are going much further back.
“It is truly amazing what they are finding. I always said that history is beneath us and this is an education not just to the students but to the people of Berkeley, all of whom have a town to be proud of.”
With the kind permission of CopperPhoenix a picture of the excavation in Jenner Museum garden