Remains of dark ages princess found in field in Cambridge
Friday 16 March 2012
The remains of a mysterious Anglo-Saxon princess, who died thirteen and a half centuries ago, have been found in a field three miles south of Cambridge.
Aged just 16 when she died, and buried lying on a special high status funerary bed, she was laid to rest with a small solid gold, garnet encrusted, Christian cross upon her chest.
Her exact identity is as yet a complete mystery. However, it’s likely that she was a member of one of the newly Christianized Anglo-Saxon royal families of the period.
She was buried fully clothed, her bronze and iron chatelaine (belt hook) and purse, still attached to her leather belt.
A clue to the circumstances of her death is the presence of three other individuals buried in separate graves alongside her (two women aged around 20 and one other slightly older individual of indeterminate sex, but conceivably female). It’s likely that they died at the same time – probably from some sort of epidemic. Significantly, the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle mentions that England was devastated by the plague in 664 AD (around the very time that the archaeological evidence also suggests they died).
The archaeological investigation - carried out by Cambridge University Archaeological Unit – has also revealed that they were interred adjacent to a high status settlement consisting of a 12 metre long timber hall and at least half a dozen other buildings with substantial semi-subterranean storage cellars.
Among the finds unearthed were fragments of posh French-originating shiny black ceramic wine jugs - in England a type of pottery previously found mainly on monastic sites.
The female graves, the high status nature of the site and the Christian burial rite all combine to suggest that the princess and her companions may well have been nuns – and that the settlement may have been part of a nunnery. It’s known that the various newly Christianized Anglo-Saxon monarchs of the time competed with each other to establish monasteries and nunneries as a proof of their Christian piety. Indeed it’s conceivable that the princess’s parents enrolled their daughter in such a nunnery to further demonstrate their commitment to their new faith (a common practice at the time).
The area itself probably enjoyed some sort of royal or otherwise elevated status inherited from Roman and immediately post-Roman times when it formed part of a native Romano-British territory centred on Cambridge and known as the Granta Saete – the territory (saete) of the River Granta (now more often known as the Cam). Just 500 metres to the north of the princess’s grave is the village of Grantchester (derived from the ‘Granta Saete’ territorial name) – the site of what was once a substantial Roman villa, the owners of which conceivably became the area’s ruling family.
Historians believe that the Roman villa, the high-status Anglo-Saxon settlement and the princess’s grave were in one of several quasi-independent mini-kingdoms which acted as buffer states between the larger kingdoms of East Anglia and Mercia (central England). The princess may well therefore have been the daughter of a mid 7th century king of Mercia or East Anglia or of one of the buffer states in between.
Continuing scientific investigations over the next few months are expected to reveal more information about the princess, her companions and the site as a whole. Isotopic tests are likely to reveal their geographical origins by demonstrating where they had spent their early childhoods. Other isotopic analyses will reveal their diet. Efforts will also be made to reconstruct aspects of the princess’s clothing from fragments of mineralized textile which survived in her grave.
“This is an incredibly important and exciting discovery which is already shedding remarkable new light on the early years of English Christianity,” said Alison Dickens, a senior manager at the Cambridge University Archaeological Unit.
The excavation carried out near the village of Trumpington, south of Cambridge, and the on-going scientific investigations, have been funded by the Trumpington Meadows Land Company – a joint housing development venture between London’s Grosvenor property company and USS, the UK-wide universities pension scheme.
- 1 Paul Scholes: Manchester City were so good against Liverpool I felt like turning the television off
- 2 Notting Hill Carnival: Woman shares selfie after being ‘punched in face for telling man to stop groping her’
- 3 Pamela Anderson rejects ice bucket challenge because of ALS experiments on animals: 'Mice had holes drilled into their skulls'
- 4 Homer Simpson takes the ALS ice bucket challenge because of course he does
- 5 Hello Kitty is not a cat after all
America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone
Arizona shooting: Gun instructor accidentally killed by nine-year-old girl with Uzi
YouTube video posted by Isis militants shows 'execution of 250 Syrian soldiers'
Notting Hill Carnival: Woman shares selfie after being ‘punched in face for telling man to stop groping her’
Hello Kitty is not a cat after all
Exclusive: We share blame for creating 'jihad generation', says Muslim strategist
Robin Williams Emmys tribute led by Billy Crystal criticised for including 'racist' joke about Muslim woman
The Rotherham child abuse scandal is a tale of apologists, misogyny and double standards
Scottish independence TV debate: Pumped-up Alex Salmond bounces back in bruising second round against Alistair Darling
Do you realise just how foolish the UK looks?
Ukip Douglas Carswell defection: Tory MP jumps ship to join Nigel Farage
- < Previous
- Next >
Highly Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: CITY - An excellent new instruction w...
£500 per day: Harrington Starr: SQL Server Developer SQL, PHP, C#, Real Time,...
£600 per day: Harrington Starr: C#.NET Developer C#, Win Forms, WPF, WCF, MVVM...