“The Marlow Warlord”

University of Reading archaeologists excavate the remains of the 'Marlow Warlord' and weapons

The burial, on a hilltop site near with commanding views over the surrounding Thames valley, must be of 6th century AD, archaeologists from the University of Reading believe.

The ‘Marlow Warlord’ was a commanding, six-foot-tall man, buried alongside an array of expensive luxuries and weapons, including a sword in a decorated scabbard, spears, bronze and glass vessels, and other personal accoutrements.

The pagan burial had remained undiscovered and undisturbed for more than 1,400 years until two metal detectorists, Sue and Mick Washington came across the site in 2018.

Archaeologists from the University of Reading and local volunteer groups are now hoping to raise funds to pay for further conservation work, to allow some of the finds to go on display to the public at the Buckinghamshire Museum in 2021, when their newly refurbished permanent galleries re-open.


A14 update and the Huntingdon bypass – discoveries

Anglo-Saxon settlement and Roman army camp found in A14 bypass dig


It’s taken more than 700 years, but the medieval villagers of Houghton in Cambridgeshire have had the last laugh: the foundations of their houses and workshops have been exposed again, as roadworks carve up the landscape they were forced to abandon when their woodlands were walled off into a royal hunting forest.

Their lost village has been rediscovered in an epic excavation employing more than 200 archaeologists, working across scores of sites on a 21-mile stretch of flat Cambridgeshire countryside, the route of the upgraded A14 and the Huntingdon bypass.

Much of it is now flat and rather featureless farmland, but the excavations have revealed how densely populated it was in the past, with scores of village sites, burial mounds, henges, trackways, industrial sites including pottery kilns and a Roman distribution centre. The archaeologists also found an Anglo-Saxon tribal boundary site with huge ditches, a gated entrance and a beacon on a hill that still overlooks the whole region.

Finds include prehistoric flint tools, seven tonnes of pottery, and more than 7,000 small personal objects including a Roman jet pendant carved with the head of Medusa*, a brooch in the shape of a chicken**, a beautifully carved Anglo-Saxon bone flute – and a startlingly well preserved timber ladder, radiocarbon dated to about 500 BC, found with a wooden paddle in a pit several metres deep.


Roman jet pendant carved with the head of Medusa*

Roman-chicken-shaped-brooch-c-Highways-England-courtesy-of-MOLA-Headland-Infrastructure_preview-1024x683A Roman brooch in the shape of a chicken**


An Anglo-Saxon bone flute from between AD 5th-9th century.


A 2.4 metre long Middle Iron Age wooden ladder which has been radiocarbon dated to 525 – 457 BC


A plaque dating to 43-400 AD is inscribed with Roman writing, perhaps a note or someone’s name. The text is called “cursive” which is more like everyday handwriting rather than the more familiar Roman capital letters seen on stone inscriptions.

There is not one key site but a whole expanse – the excavation has given us the whole of the English landscape over the past 6,000 years,” said Steve Sherlock, head archaeologist for Highways England. “The Anglo-Saxon village sites alone are all absolute bobby dazzlers. The larger monuments such as the henges and barrows show up in crop marks and geophysics, but you can only really see things like the post marks of timber buildings by getting down into the ground and digging.”


Neolithic henge monument being excavated on the A14 Cambridge to Huntingdon scheme

The workshops and animal enclosures give you an impression of the hard grind of everyday life, but when you get something like the bone flute you suddenly see into a world that also had art and music, dancing and entertainment.”

At Houghton the archaeologists have been walking along alleyways first used centuries before the Norman Conquest. The deserted medieval village, with remains of 12 buildings, had even earlier – and completely unsuspected – origins. The buildings overlay remains of up to 40 Anglo-Saxon timber structures including houses, workshops and agricultural buildings.

The medieval village was occupied between the 12th and early 14th centuries, and the most likely explanation for its abandonment was that they lost the use of their woods when they were enclosed as a royal forest,” said Emma Jeffery, senior archaeologist from Mola Headland Infrastructure, who has been working on the site. “At a stroke they lost their grazing, foraging and bark for uses such as tanning leather, so the economic justification for the village was gone.”

The distribution of sites suggests that many were aligned along a lost stretch of Roman road now under the A1. Others are clustered around the ancient barrows and henges, suggesting they remained significant features in the landscape long after their original use as gathering and burial places ended. Major centres of Roman and later pottery production were found around Brampton and on the banks of the Great Ouse.

The excavation of around 350 hectares has been one of the largest archaeology projects in the UK. Work continued through one of the coldest winters in decades, with the diggers pulled off the sites only when the recent blizzards and sub-zero temperatures hit. Work will continue into the summer and there will be open days at several of the sites, including the deserted village.

*Jet Medusa-head pendants are an example of the integration of Roman and British traditions. It is a powerful, Roman emblem, yet executed in a local material, if definitely of jet (in Roman, as in more recent times jet was obtained from Whitby on the Yorkshire coast) and thus, most probably of British workmanship.

The Medusa is usually represented as a staring female face with writhing snakes for hair, nearly always depicted with a frontal rather than a profile head. In Greek mythology, the hero Perseus beheaded Medusa and thereafter used her head as a weapon to turn onlookers to stone. Thus, in classical antiquity the image of the head of Medusa appeared as an evil-averting Gorgoneion, considered to be an apotropaic symbol of protection, also appearing in mosaics and sometimes placed on doors, walls, floors, pediments, antefixes, coins, shields, tombstones and sarcophagi, in the hope that the staring eyes and serpents would avert evil.

Black, shiny materials for jewellery were popular in both Britain and the Rhineland from the late second century AD to the end of the fourth century AD. Without detailed analysis by reflected light microscopy, all black jewellery from this period, irrespective of composition, has inevitably been described as being made of `jet’. However, some items have been shown to be made of jet-like substances, such as shale, coal, or lignite.

**Zoomorphic plate brooches were very popular in Roman Britain c. AD 100 – 200. These were often cast in whimsical animal forms from copper alloy, many with multicoloured champlevé enamel details as decoration.

The distribution of three-dimensional chicken brooches has revealed a distinct military spread in Britain (Allason-Jones, 2015: 76-77 and Fig. 4.4.) or, at least, a predominance in large towns and civitas capitals (Crummy 2007: 225). Figurines representing the Roman god, Mercury, often include a cockerel as one of his attributes and it is possible that the chicken brooches were worn by devotees of the god’s cult (Crummy 2005: 225). However, the Mercury statuettes most often show him with a standing cockerel, as the herald of a new day, but it is difficult to establish whether the brooch depicts a sitting cockerel or a brooding hen.

  • Allason-Jones, L. (2015) Zoomorphic Brooches in Roman Britain: Decoration or Religious Ideology?, in: R. Marzel & G. D. Stiebel (eds), Dress and Ideology: Fashioning Identity from Antiquity to the Present. pp. 69-86.
  • Crummy, N. (2007) Brooches and the Cult of Mercury, Britannia, Volume 38. pp. 225-23

Late Iron Age Skull

Dog walker finds human skull 

A dog walker has come across an unexpected find whilst out in Somerset.

Roger Evans found a ‘well-preserved’ human skull whilst walking along the banks of the River Sowy.


He reported his findings to the police and it was analysed. After months of research, results revealed it belonged to a woman aged 45 or older during the late Iron Age (380-190BC) – several centuries before the first Roman invasion of Britain.

No other human remains were found, but the archaeologists discovered that the skull lay close to a series of round, timber posts driven deep into the river bed. Credit: Environment Agency 

Analysis by a human bone expert showed that the female skull suffered considerably from gum disease and tooth loss.


Her diet included coarse material, which had unevenly worn her remaining teeth, and resulted in severe osteoarthritis in the joint of her right jaw. She had also suffered at least one episode of chronic illness or nutritional stress during childhood.

The woman’s head also appears to have been deliberately removed at, or shortly after death. Archeologists say such discoveries are becoming more common.

Severed heads are not an unusual discovery for the Iron Age, but the placement of the skull in a wetland beside a wooden structure is very rare, possibly reflecting a practice of making ritual offerings in watery environments. RICHARD BRUNNING, SOUTH WEST HERITAGE TRUST  


St John the Baptist Church in Reedham may be Roman fortlet

A Norfolk church may have begun life as a Roman fortlet protecting supplies on their way to Hadrian’s Wall. Trevor Heaton hears how ‘keyhole archaeology’ is solving the riddle of Reedham.

Sometimes things can hide in plain sight. But that doesn’t it make any easier to tell their story.

For centuries, researchers and historians have realised that there is something rather special about St John the Baptist Church in Reedham

A reconstruction of the Roman frontier fortlet near Gundremmingen in what is now Bavaria in Germany. Prof Fulford believes Reedham might have looked something like this.A reconstruction of the Roman frontier fortlet near Gundremmingen in what is now Bavaria in Germany. Professor Fulford believes Reedham might have looked something like this.


For this 15th-century Broadland gem clearly has Roman roots, as can be seen in the large amounts of material in its walls, the thin tiles particularly distinctive. That impression was only strengthened after a disastrous 1981 fire which gutted the church – and revealed yet more ancient masonry inside.

Now new research may finally be helping to solve the riddle of one of East Anglia’s most mysterious sites.

But first, let’s scroll back the best part of two millennia to Reedham in the Roman age. These days the village is several miles inland, and the nearest it gets to water is the familiar chain ferry across the Yare which saves grateful drivers a long detour.

image (1)

In Roman times the landscape was completely different. What is now the Yare Valley was then a vast expanse of water, the ‘Great Estuary’, a very different coastline in which Great Yarmouth did not exist, and the sea stretched into east Norfolk like a three-fingered hand.

The Roman pharos (lighthouse) behind St Mary de Castro Church - originally built in Anglo-Saxon times - which can be found in the grounds of Dover Castle. Is this similar to what happened at Reedham?The Roman pharos (lighthouse) behind St Mary de Castro Church – originally built in Anglo-Saxon times – which can be found in the grounds of Dover Castle. Is this similar to what happened at Reedham?


In this world, the site of Reedham suddenly takes on a much more important significance, being on a promontory guarding the approach to our Roman ‘capital’, Venta Icenorum – the modern-day Caistor St Edmund

It’s this position which has led to speculation that the mysterious lost Roman building here could have been a pharos – lighthouse – similar to the one which survives in the grounds of Dover Castle.

But now research led by Professor Mike Fulford of Reading University is hinting at a story which may prove even more fascinating. Prof Fulford is one of this country’s leading experts on the Roman period and has excavated at such iconic sites as Pompeii and Carthage, as well asSilchester near Reading. He is also a big supporter of Caistor Roman Project , which is uncovering the story of Venta.

Prof Fulford, who came to Norfolk a few weeks ago to talk about his latest research, explained that it had long been established that the building at Reedham had an obvious connection with the fort of Branodunum (Brancaster) . Both were built out of a grey ‘sparkly’ sandstone called Leziate Quartzite*.

The stone would have been excavated a few miles to the west of King’s Lynn and taken by boat around the coast to Brancaster, and then to Reedham. “I can’t think of any other example in Roman Britain where stone has been brought so far,” he said. “It’s 100km as the crow flies, by sea 130km or so. This would have been a terrific undertaking.”

Research has shown this material turns up in other Broads churches, but nothing like the quantities of Reedham. It’s clear that this is where the original building must have been.

Prof Fulford said investigating the church site offered considerable challenges. Forget about digging large trenches everywhere – this is a consecrated site with hundreds of burials in the churchyard. Researchers first had to win support from the parochial church council and the Diocese of Norwich for their investigation.

First, the site was surveyed – inside and outside the church – by ground-penetrating radar, one of the famous ‘geophys’ tools so beloved by Channel 4’s Time Team. Burials showed up as black lines, with white areas showing masonry. “It produced some really promising results,” the professor added.

There was a very strong 20-metre-long signal along the north side of the church, with more interesting results inside in the nave and the chancel too (‘but of course we can’t excavate there’.)

Then came a series of very small, very targeted, test trenches. In 2016 three were dug, with one proving a complete blank but the other two revealed as ‘robber trenches’ where later builders had removed the Roman material for reuse. “I felt we were getting ‘warmer’ but there was still no hard-and-fast [Roman] foundation,” he said.

The breakthrough came the following year when three more trenches were dug, producing ‘really encouraging results’.

One was empty, one was a robber trench – but the third revealed a spread of rough Roman blocks. These were not just of the grey west Norfolk stone but also of limestone from Northamptonshire and Lincolnshire. “They seemed to be really indicative of something substantial, something clearly Roman.”

He added that the 20-metre wall lying under the church’s north wall showed it was ‘something more than a lighthouse’.


So what was it? Prof Fulford thinks the answer can be found not in this country, but in Germany. There is a fortlet at Bürgle, near Gundremmingen in Bavaria, then on the borders of the empire. Built on a cramped site – like Reedham – it was long and narrow in shape with a tower at both ends. In fact it looks more like a medieval castle than a classic Roman fort (“A good parallel is with one of the milecastles on Hadrian’s Wall”).

Nothing has been found that gives a firm date to the fortlet, but we can speculate it must have been started its life around AD200-230, the same as its ‘parent site’ in Brancaster. Reedham was part of a chain of coastal forts which began at Reculver in Kent  and included Caister north of Yarmouth , Brancaster, Skegness (possibly), Brough-on-Humber and finally South Shields. They may have acted as safe staging posts for supplies for Rome’s northern frontier and Hadrian’s Wall.

By 300 the military situation had subtly changed. A rebel ‘British Empire’ had – briefly – broken away from central Roman control and there were growing problems caused by incursions from tribes outside the empire, in northern Germany and southern Denmark.

A post was created known as the ‘Count of the Saxon Shore’ and more forts were added, such as at Burgh Castle, the now-vanished Walton in Suffolk and (fast-vanishing) Bradwell in Essex.

It wasn’t all war and strife. There is growing evidence that the Great Estuary was an important trading crossroads too. Will Bowden, Associate Professor in Roman Archaeology at Nottingham University and a director of the Caistor project, said: “Grain, instead of going northwards, also went eastwards [to the Rhine frontier].” The pottery shows there were links too, and the number of hoards which turn up in later Roman Norfolk show how well people were doing. “People in Norfolk were getting pretty rich on the back of it,” he added.

But what about the old idea of Reedham being a lighthouse? There is no reason why it couldn’t have been a fort AND a lighthouse – all they had to do was heighten one tower. That might also imply that there was some sort of relay signal station sited somewhere near Brundall where the merchants of Venta Icenorum could be alerted that a ship was on its way.

And what about those ships? Where were they being built? Some must surely have come to grief – are they waiting to be discovered under metres of silt in a Broadland field? All that waterlogging could preserve some amazing finds. It seems the best may be yet to come.

Back at Reedham, research continues. The fortlet discovery was unveiled in July 2017 but work is still needed to establish more of the layout of the building, and to try to find its date.

Prof Fulford believes there would have been a garrison of around 50 troops – and where there are troops, there would have been some sort of shanty settlement nearby. The wine shops, the drinking dens, the food stalls… they had to go somewhere (as did all the rubbish). Perhaps a villager will uncover evidence in their garden.

And there’s more.

One of the test trenches had a surprise in it. Underneath a spread of mortar were some fragments of charcoal. These were sent away for tests to find what tree species they were and, crucially, what date. Using the technique known as carbon-14 dating, the tests showed that the charcoal wasn’t Roman at all, but Anglo-Saxon.

The two samples, with a 95 per cent certainty, are dated to AD 650-770 and the other AD 647-778. These are the decades immediately after the death of St Felix, the first Bishop of East Anglia. We are talking about the dawn of the second Christian era in these islands.

Prof Fulford believes that a mass of the Leziate stone on the north wall may show a blocked-up arch of what was the first Anglo-Saxon stone-built church on the site. It may have looked something like the (still existing) St Peter’s-on-the-Wall at Bradwell, another Roman Saxon Shore fort.

And all this has been revealed by a total of just 12 square metres of digging.

The work goes on this spring. Somewhere on the site must be evidence of the equally substantial Roman south wall. And what about that elusive date – and more evidence about how the Anglo-Saxons took the site over?

*‘Silver Carr’ stone. Allen, J.R.L., 2004. Carrstone in Norfolk Buildings: Distribution, use, associates and influences. BAR 371. Banbury.

Vindolanda boxing gloves


Now, whoever has courage and a strong and collected spirit in his breast, let him come forward, lace on the gloves and put up his hands. (5.363-364) ― VirgilThe Aeneid

Roman boxing gloves unearthed during an excavation near Hadrian’s Wall have gone on public display. 

Experts at Vindolanda, near Hexham, in Northumberland, believe they are “probably the only known surviving examples from the Roman period”.

Dr Andrew Birley, Vindolanda Trust director of excavations, described the leather bands as an “astonishing” find.

The gloves were discovered last summer along with a hoard of writing tablets, swordsshoes and bath clogs.

Made of leather, they were designed to fit snugly over the knuckles and have the appearance of a protective guard.


The larger of the gloves (pictured) is cut from a single piece of leather


Dr Birley said: “I have seen representations of Roman boxing gloves depicted on bronze statues, paintings and sculptures, but to have the privilege of finding two real leather examples is exceptionally special.

“The hairs stand up on the back of your neck when you realise you have discovered something as astonishing as these boxing gloves.”

The larger of the two is filled with natural material, which would have acted as a shock absorber.

The smaller glove found “in near perfect condition”, is filled with a coil of hard, twisted leather.

It is understood they would have been used for sparring sessions as they do not have metal inserts used in ancient boxing bouts.


detail of the bronze Hellenistic Greek sculpture of The Boxer of the Quirinal wearing caestūs

ITV report

Anglo-Saxon finds in Louth area

Treasure over 1,500 years old found near Louth


Anglo-Saxon treasure dating back more than 1,500 years has been dug up in a Louth-area field from a burial mound.

Two bronze bowls, a gold pendant and iron weapons including a spearhead, two arrowheads and fragments of a sword were found in a field by Alan Smith, a metal detector enthusiast.

They have been confirmed as being dated back to the seventh century. Dr Adam Daubney, find liaison officer for Lincolnshire County Council said that the artefacts clearly once belonged to someone with high status.

He said: “This is a once in a lifetime discovery.

“The finds are exquisite and almost certainly come from a high-status burial that was destroyed through ploughing many years ago.

“The finds date to the seventh century – a time when the elite in society were often being buried in barrows – small artificial mounds of earth.

“The individual would either have been placed into a grave within the mound, or perhaps even into a chamber which was then covered over.

“And the artefacts discovered at this site are rare objects that clearly indicate this was the grave of someone who had an important role in society – perhaps a local ruler.

“This form of burial is a powerful display of status; not only was the individual being buried with a large amount of wealth, the burial mound also became a permanent feature in the landscape.

“This elaborate form of burial has often been seen as evidence for the emergence of kingship.”

This will be the third treasure find in the area within the last eight months.

An Anglo-Saxon island was found in March and new evidence was uncovered to prove the town’s claim that it was the location of Sidnacester Cathedral, in August. Archaeologists revealed that an ‘ordinary-looking field’ in Lincolnshire was actually once a settlement with trading links across Europe.
Four sites including Louth and Horncastle have for around 1,000 years laid claim to the site of the Sidnacester Cathedral. In August, stone found on the Louthstone found on the Louth Julian Bower Playing Field was said to add to growing proof that the town was the landmark location.

Senior lecturer at the University of Sheffield,Dr Hugh Willmott, who has excavated the Louth site, said: “The finds are intriguing. While the gold pendant is an outstanding object, Some of the artefacts founds at the site near Louth.the real treasures are the enamelled bronze hanging bowls*. The metal detectorist found two sets of ‘escutcheons’ – small, round plates that would have been attached to the side of the bowl.

“Hanging bowls are some of the finest pieces of metalwork to have been produced in the Early Medieval period. We don’t fully understand what they were used for; some may have been used in drinking rituals, but we do know from other burials that some were filled with fruit at the time of burial.”

The finds are now being processed under the Treasure Act, and a report is being prepared for the coroner.

*[Hanging bowls are thin-walled, copper-alloy vessels, capable of suspension from three or four hooks mounted, at equal intervals, at the rim of the bowl. The bowls can vary in size from c.135mm to c.460mm. The hooks project from copper-alloy mounts, which are often enamelled, known as escutcheons and which are soldered or riveted to the body of the bowl. Often, other decorative features are attached to the bowl, for instance enamelled discs or bands. The bowls found in the Sutton Hoo ship burial are an example of these types of artefact.]

Lindisfarne monastery

Evidence found by amateur archaeologist

An amateur archaeologist has unearthed what is believed to be evidence of one of England’s earliest Christian monasteries in a dig on Lindisfarne.


The rare grave marker, thought to be from the mid 7th-8th Century, has been described as a “stunning find”.

A £25,000 project off the north-east coast was crowd-funded by 200 donors, including 60 who took part in the dig.

Project leader Lisa Westcott Wilkins said the name stone was “absolutely fantastic diagnostic evidence”.

“It was a spectacular moment and, even better for us, is that…it wasn’t found by one of the team leaders or experts, it was found by a member of the public who had helped to fund and make the project possible,” she said.

The name on the stone, ending in the common Anglo-Saxon “frith”, is half visible and the team is waiting for experts to decipher the rest.

Project co-director Dr David Petts, of Durham University, said it was a “stunning find, of exactly the period we’re looking for”.

“It’s unimpeachable evidence for Anglo-Saxon activity and confirms we’re hot on the trail of the very earliest monastery here in Lindisfarne,” he said.

The name stone is believed to date from around the time the monastery was built in 635AD.

Its location has, “surprisingly”, never been properly established, Dr Petts said.

It was thought to be near the later medieval priory, the ruins of which remain, but there had been “no clear archaeological evidence to back this assumption up”, he said.

“We are the first archaeological team who have gone into the field with the express aim of locating the archaeological remains of the early monastery.”

3D interactive find

Anglo-Saxon cross fragments, Louth


Cross-2 (1)


 Anglo-Saxon cross fragments found in Louth rectory garden

Fragments from a 10th Century Anglo-Saxon stone cross have been discovered in a Lincolnshire rectory garden.

One stone was discovered during maintenance work at St James’ Church rectory in Louth, while church verger Christopher Marshall found the second.

Historians said the stones are proof that Louth was an important centre for Christianity in medieval times.

Verger Mr Marshall believes the stones are the earliest Christian artefacts to be found in the town.

It is thought the cross would have been on a 3-4m (10-13ft) plinth.

Mr Marshall said: “The cross was erected at a very important time in the development of Louth and the early church. So far, it is the only tangible evidence that has been found from that period.”

Built in the 15th Century, St James’ Church on Eastgate has an imposing 295ft (90m) spire overlooking the town.

The discovery of the cross provides a link between the present church, an 8th and 9th Century Anglo-Saxon monastery, and the town’s 10th Century shrine to the Anglo-Saxon bishop of Lindsey, St Herefrith.

Reverend Nick Brown said: “It is truly inspiring to find an object that may have been a focus for devotion and prayer many centuries ago here in Louth.”

Conservation work will begin on the stones in summer, and they will go on public display in the church later this year.

Stolen Anglo-Saxon stone sculpture

Appeal following theft of unique Anglo-Saxon stone sculpture

Police are appealing for information after a unique stone artefact was stolen from a church in Hovingham, near Malton.

Some time between 23 May and 6 June 2015, offenders entered All Saints Church in Hovingham and stole a carved stone which was on display in the recess of a window.

The statue, originally part of a stone cross, dates from the late eighth or early ninth century, and is likely to be contemporary with the shrine panel still preserved in the church. It is particularly notable for its ornate and accomplished carving.

The stone itself is a sandstone from the quarries at Aislaby near Whitby, demonstrating the links between the Anglo-Saxon church at Hovingham and Whitby Abbey, which owned the quarries and exported stone for sculptural monuments to sites across North and East Yorkshire.

The piece measures 51cm high, 23.2cm at its widest, and 12.8cm at its deepest. It is very heavy and will have required a vehicle to remove it.

PC Nick Durkin, of Scarborough Police, said: “Experts have described the stolen sculpture as unique in its form, layout and the quality of its carving. We are making extensive enquiries to return this important historic artefact to its rightful location, and I would urge anyone who knows its whereabouts to get in touch straight away.”

Anglo-Saxon butter churn lid

Saxon artefacts discovered in Stafford during construction of WCML improvement project

Archaeologists have discovered an Anglo-Saxon wooden butter churn lid at a rail development near Stafford. 

But radiocarbon tests have revealed the lid of the butter churn dates from the early medieval period.

The tests have put a fragment of wood found with the lid as dating between AD715-890, so the lid is from the same period as the Staffordshire Hoard.

Dr Emma Tetlow, of Headland Archaeology is senior archaeologist at the site where Network Rail is building a new flyover and 11 bridges on the West Coast Main Line as part of the £250million Stafford Area Improvements Programme. 

Hundreds of thousands of tonnes of earth have been moved at the site to date, but checks are undertaken by Dr Tetlow during ground works. She said she was surprised but delighted by the news as there was so little evidence of this period archaeologically.

During this period this part of Staffordshire was part of the Mercian heartland and was populated by a pagan tribe called the Pencersaete.

She added: “Existing knowledge of this period for the north and east of the Midlands and the UK in general is very scarce, so this find is fantastic and of regional significance.”

A number of Victorian stoneware bottles bearing the names of breweries from Bristol to Manchester have also been unearthed. Local residents will have the chance to view some of the objects and discuss them with Dr Tetlow and other colleagues working on the site at an information day in June.

A young man made for the corner where he knew
she was standing; this stripping youth
had whipped up her dress, and under her girdle
(as she stood there) thrust something stiff,
worked his will; they both shook.
This fellow quickened: one moment he was
forceful, a first-rate servant, so strenuous
that the next he was knocked up, quite
blown by his exertion. Beneath the girdle
a thing began to grow that upstanding men
often think of, tenderly, and acquire.

Riddle 54 (answer: a butter churn) from The Exeter Book of Riddles

Further reading: Unriddling the Exeter Riddles by Patrick J. Murphy