This was first drawn to my attention by my roving reporter, Woodwose.
A “truly astonishing discovery” has been made by archaeologists who unearthed one of the UK’s earliest Anglo-Saxon Christian burial sites on the edge of Cambridge. [photo slide show with link]
The discovery of the grave of a teenage girl from the seventh century AD on land at Trumpington Meadows has startled archaeologists with a combination of two rare finds – a bed burial and an early Christian cross.
The skeleton of the girl, aged about 16, was buried on an ornamental bed with the gold and garnet cross on her chest.
The cross is the fifth of its kind to be found in the UK and dates the grave to the earliest years of the English Church between 650 and 680 AD.
It also suggests its owner held an important position in society.
Dr Sam Lucy, a specialist in Anglo-Saxon burial from Newnham College at Cambridge University, said: “To be buried in this elaborate way, with such a valuable artefact, tells us this girl was probably nobility or even royalty. This cross is the kind of material culture that was in circulation at the highest sphere of society – similar to the one found in the coffin of St Cuthbert.”
Archaeologists will now use the latest scientific techniques including radiocarbon dating, isotopic bone analysis and skeleton studies to analyse the find.
They hope it could lead to a greater understanding of the period in which the girl lived.
Alison Dickens, who led the excavation for the university’s archaeological department, said: “This bed burial is remarkable in itself – the 13th ever uncovered in the UK and only the fourth in the last 20 years – add to that a beautifully made Christian cross and you have a truly astonishing discovery.”
The Christian girl was in one of a group of four graves including an unsexed person in their 20s and two slightly younger women with no obvious indications of Christianity.
One early suggestion is that the teenager could have a link to the founding of the first monastery in Ely, founded in 673.
Malim, T. & Hines, J. 1998. The Anglo-Saxon Cemetery at Edix Hill (Barrington A), Cambridge, Council for British Archaeology CBA Research Report 112.
Speake, G. 1989. A Saxon Bed Burial on Swallowcliffe Down. English Heritage Archaeological Report 10. London.