Early Medieval female burial site is ‘most significant ever discovered’ in UK Archeology

Archaeologists don’t usually jump with excitement, but the Museum of London archeology team could barely contain themselves on Tuesday when they unveiled an “exhilarating” discovery made on the last day of a barren dig in the spring.

“This is the most important early medieval female burial ever discovered in Britain,” said excavation leader Levente Bence Balázs, almost jumping with euphoria. “It’s an archaeologist’s dream to find something like this.”

“I was looking through a suspicious garbage pit when I saw teeth,” Balázs added, his voice caught by the emotion of the memory. “Then two gold items appeared from the ground and shone before me. These artifacts have not seen the light of day for 1,300 years, and to be the first person to see them is indescribable. But even then, we didn’t know how special this find was going to be.” .

What Balázs had found was a woman buried between AD 630 and 670. C., a woman buried in a bed next to an extraordinary necklace of 30 pieces of gold, garnets and intricately carved semi-precious stones. It is by far the richest necklace of its kind ever discovered in Britain and reveals a craftsmanship unprecedented in the early medieval period.

Also buried with the woman was an elaborately decorated large cross, buried upside down, another mysterious and unique feature of the tomb secrets, and with highly unusual depictions of a human face in delicate silver with blue glass eyes. Two vessels were buried next to it, also unique in that they still contain a mysterious residue yet to be analyzed.

“This is a find of international importance. This discovery has pushed the course of history, and the impact will be stronger as we investigate this find more deeply,” Balázs said. “These mysterious discoveries raise many more questions than that respond. There is still a lot to discover about what we have found and what it means.”

Much of the excavation in April was inauspicious. The small, isolated Northamptonshire village of Harpole, whose name means ‘dirty pool’, was previously only known for its annual scarecrow festival and its proximity to Arguably one of the worst motorway service stations in the UK.

There were no ancient churches near the excavation or other burial sites. But thanks to the practice of developer Funded Archeology, the Vistry Group homebuilders commissioned a search of the area in which they were building.

“I have worked for Vistry for 19 years and have had a lot of interaction with archaeologists,” said Daniel Oliver, Vistry’s regional technical director. “I’m used to Simon [Mortimer, archaeology consultant for the RPS group] calling me with great enthusiasm for the pot shards.” Beside him, Mortimer visibly stiffens in protest, and Oliver quickly adds, “Marijuana bits are very exciting, of course.”

“The day the team discovered Harpole’s treasure, I had five missed calls from Simon on my phone,” Oliver said. “I knew then that it was about more than just bits of marijuana. As exciting as the pot shards are.

The woman, and she is a woman, though only the crowns of her teeth remain, was almost certainly an early Christian leader of significant personal wealth, both an abbess and a princess, perhaps. Lyn Blackmore, a specialist with the Museum of London archeology team, said: “Women have been found buried next to swords, but men have never been found buried next to necklaces.” Scholars agree that she must have been one of the first women in Britain to achieve a high position in the church.

Devout as she clearly was, her tomb is evidence of a changing era when pagan and Christian beliefs were still in flux. “This is a fascinating burial of mixed iconography: the burial has a distinctly pagan flavor, but the tomb is also heavily invested in Christian iconography,” Mortimer said.

The vestry has relinquished its rights to the treasury, which now belongs to the state. The team hopes it will be displayed locally, once its conservation work is complete, a painstaking effort that will take at least another two years.

Oliver is cautious about where the actual dig site is. It has not been rebuilt but, likewise, it has not been marked. “We don’t want people coming in with metal detectors,” he said. “That would be a bit much.”

About the author


Leave a Comment