Anglo-Saxon warrior rises from the dead

THERE IS a military airbase in Suffolk, where the fighter planes roar overhead and hundreds of young men and women learn the skills of modern warfare. But underneath their feet lie the remains of ancient warriors who fought to defend their land in Anglo-Saxon times.

An archaeological dig at the US airbase, near Lakenheath, has unearthed an Anglo-Saxon cemetery containing the bones of dozens of soldiers and their families.

When the site was excavated, one grave stood out from the rest. Bigger than the others, it had been covered with a burial mound which, in a cemetery of unmarked graves, showed its occupant as someone of importance. Lying in the chalky earth, buried with all his weapons, were the skeleton of a soldier and the perfect remains of his horse. They were buried 1,400 years ago.

Julian Richards, an archaeologist who helped to research the findings for a BBC documentary, said the grave was one of the most impresssive examples of Anglo-Saxon burial grounds to be discovered.

"We knew that important men were sometimes buried with their horses but this is the first time we have found the bones in such good condition and with so many weapons as well," he said. "The horse was still wearing its bridle, which is also a unique find."

Mr Richards said the soldier was almost certainly the leader of the community. "We know he was important because his horse was sacrificed on his death. He was also buried with a large number of weapons including a spear, a sword and a knife although he did not die from battle wounds," he said.

"It could simply be that the weapons were included in the grave to signify his power."

The warrior was about 5ft 10in tall and died at the age of 30 but his remains did not reveal the cause of his death. He probably died from illness.

Further examination of the bones revealed that the warrior had suffered from some minor back problems. "These were quite common in Anglo-Saxon men and could have been caused by lifting heavy weights or falling off a horse," Mr Richards said.

The horse had been stunned by a heavy blow to the head before its throat was cut. It was then buried wearing its battle regalia and with a bucket, perhaps containing water for the long journey to the next world, placed beside its head.

The soldier had been buried in a wooden coffin with his weapons laid on the top. There was a knife and some sheep bones, his food, and he was wearing his shield.

The remains are currently in storage at the Suffolk Archeological Unit but will go on display in a local museum later this year.

t `''''''`Meet the Ancestors' will be shown on BBC2 tomorrow at 9pm. A BBC book accompanies the series.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA celebration of British elections
Arts and Entertainment
The Ridiculous Six has been produced by Adam Sandler, who also stars in it
filmNew controversy after nine Native American actors walked off set
Ed Miliband, Nick Clegg and David Cameron appeal to the audience during the Question Time special
Danny Jones was in the Wales squad for the 2013 World Cup
rugby leagueKeighley Cougars half-back was taken off after just four minutes
Life and Style
Google celebrates Bartolomeo Cristofori's 360th birthday
techGoogle Doodle to the rescue
Life and Style
The original ZX Spectrum was simple to plug into your TV and get playing on
techThirty years on, the ZX Spectrum is back, after a fashion
Tiger Woods and Lindsey Vonn are breaking up after nearly three years together
peopleFormer couple announce separation in posts on their websites
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Digital Marketing Consultant

£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Digital Marketing Cons...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Stores Keeper

£16640 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Assistant Stores Keeper is r...

Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

£16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer - C# / ASP.NET / SQL

£17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Developer required to join a bu...

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living