Early medieval women’s burial site ‘most important site ever discovered’ in Britain | Archeology

Archaeologists don’t usually jump around with excitement, but the Museum of London’s archaeological team could barely contain themselves on Tuesday as they unveiled an “exciting” discovery at the end of a barren excavation in the spring It was done in one day.

“This is the most important early medieval female burial ever found in Britain,” said excavation leader Levente Bence Balázs, almost jumping for joy. “Finding something like this is an archaeologist’s dream.”

“I was looking through what appeared to be a garbage pit when I saw the teeth,” Balázs added, his voice tingling with reminiscence. “Then two gold objects emerged from the ground, gleaming at me. These artifacts had not seen the light of day for 1300 years, and to be the first to see them was indescribable. But even then, We didn’t know how special this discovery would be.”

What the Balázs found was a woman buried between AD 630 and 670 – a woman buried in a bed alongside a remarkable 30-piece necklace of finely wrought gold, garnet and half Gem composition. From a mile away, it is the richest necklace of its kind ever found in England, and showcases unparalleled craftsmanship from the early Middle Ages.

Buried with the lady was a large, richly decorated crucifix, buried face down, another unique and enigmatic feature of the tomb’s secret, and very unusually depicted with delicate silver and blue glass eyes a human face. Two jars were buried next to her, also unique in that they still contain a mysterious residue awaiting analysis.

“This is a discovery of international importance. It’s a discovery that moved the course of history, and its impact will only increase if we study it more deeply,” says Balázs. “These mysterious discoveries raise far more questions than they answer. There is still much to discover about what we found and what it means.”

So much denseness about April is inauspicious. Harpole, an isolated Northamptonshire hamlet whose name means “dirty pool”, was previously known only for its annual scarecrow festival and arguably one of the worst motorway service stations in the UK famous.

There are no old churches near the grave or other cemetery. But the Vistry Group homebuilders commissioned a search of the area they were building because of an archaeological practice funded by the developer.

“I’ve been with Vistry for 19 years, so I’ve 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] Pot shards get me all excited. Beside him, Mortimer visibly stiffened in protest, and Oliver was quick to add: “Of course the pot shards are very exciting. “

“The day the team found the Harpole treasure, I had five missed calls from Simon on my phone,” Oliver said. “That’s when I knew it wasn’t just pot shards. It was as exciting as pot shards.”

The woman—and indeed a woman, though all that remained of her teeth were crowns—was almost certainly an early Christian leader of considerable personal wealth, perhaps both abbot and princess. Lyn Blackmore, an expert on the Museum of London’s archaeological team, said: “Women have been found buried with swords, but men have never been found buried with necklaces.” One of a number of women to hold high positions in the church.

Though she was clearly devout, her grave is evidence of changing times when pagan and Christian beliefs were still in flux. “It was a fascinating funeral combined with iconography: the bling of the tomb has a decidedly pagan flavor, but the tomb is also filled with Christian iconography,” Mortimer said.

Vestry renounced his rights to the treasure that now belonged to the state. The team hope that once their conservation work is complete, it will be exhibited locally – painstaking work that will take at least another two years.

Oliver is cautious about the location of the actual dig site. It wasn’t rebuilt, but again, it wasn’t flagged. “We don’t want people coming in with metal detectors,” he said. “That would be a bit much.”

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