Dover find yields Anglo-Saxon treasures

Archaeologists have found a spectacular series of Anglo-Saxon gold and silver treasures on top of a hill overlooking Dover, Kent.

The excavations have unearthed Britain's finest Dark Age discovery for half a century, including large quantities of weapons, jewellery, richly decorated gold pendants, garnet-inlaid silver brooches, an amethyst-and-silver necklace, and three crystal balls, probably used for magical purposes.

In all, 75 exquisite brooches, 35 necklaces (made up of 2,400 mainly amber and glass beads), 14 silver, bronze and gold pendants, 150 buckles, 170 knives, 13 glass vessels, 18 pots, seven swords, 26 spearheads, six shields, a battleaxe and 400 other items (mainly of iron and bronze) have been found. They are to be researched by a British Musuem expert on Anglo-Saxon jewellery, Cathy Haith.

The newly found treasure will be exhibited at the museum after conservation work has been completed in 1996.

Archaeologists from Canterbury Archaeological Trust under the direction of Keith Parfitt - financed under planning conditions by the Orbit Housing Trust - discovered the horde while excavating a 5th-to-7th-century pagan burial ground at Buckland, near Dover.

The most interesting burial is that of a high-class 6th-century woman, aged about 30, who was buried wearing a crystal pendant, a necklace of 175 glass beads, a solid silver pendant, five silver brooches, inlaid with garnets, a headband made partly of gold thread - and a mysterious crystal ball in a silver sling. Also found in her tomb was a miniature crystal ball, used for religious purposes.

Other fine objects found in female graves include a tiny gilt- bronze brooch in the form of a recumbent horse, an iron buckle inlaid with silver, glass and garnets, a Frankish-style silver and garnet finger ring, a Byzantine and Frankish-influenced amethyst and silver pendant necklace, a bone casket, tweezers, glass wine beakers from the Rhineland and a one-and-a-half- inch wide gold pendant decorated with highly stylised animal images.

Plainly, Dark Age Kent was a prosperous area. Twenty per cent of the female graves in the Buckland were conspicuously rich, which interestingly is around the same percentage of male graves occupied by high- caste males.

High hereditary status among Anglo-Saxon males was symbolised by weaponry. Top-caste individuals were buried with swords while lower orders were interred with spears.

The Buckland discoveries will enable academics to carry out detailed research into cultural links between South-east England's lost kingdom of Kent and the near continent.

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