Metal Detectorist’s Hoard Leads to Twenty ‘Richly Adorned’ Anglo-Saxon Burials
Lavish burials of women with their jewellery have been discovered at a previously unknown Anglo-Saxon cemetery thanks to a metal detectorist.
The region was uncovered at Scremby near Skegness when the detectorist discovered objects such as spearheads, iron shield bosses and copper guilded brooches – items which are usually found a burial site.
Archaeologists have discovered more than 20 burials dating back to the fifth to mid-sixth century.
One rich woman at the site was found cradling a child, and others were buried with a “rich array” of objects, including brooches and necklaces.
The dig was carried out by a team from the University of Sheffield.
Senior lecturer in European Historical Archaeology at the university said: “Almost without exception, the burials were accompanied by a rich array of objects, in keeping with the funerary rites adopted during the early centuries of the Germanic migrations to eastern England.
“What is particularly interesting is the significant proportion of very lavish burials which belonged to women.
“These women wore necklaces made from sometimes hundreds of amber, glass and rock crystal beads, used personal items such as tweezers, carried fabric bags held open by elephant ivory rings, and wore exquisitely decorated brooches to fasten their clothing.”
Dr Willmott added that some of the finds were similar to those in the south of England.
“Two women even received silver finger rings and a style of silver buckle commonly associated with Jutish communities in Kent.
“Furnished burials belonging to males were also identified, including a number buried with weaponry such as spears and shields.”
It was led by Dr Willmott and Dr Katie Hemer, from the university’s Department of Archaeology, in collaboration with Dr Adam Daubney, the Lincolnshire Finds Liaison Officer for the Portable Antiquities Scheme.
International volunteers, students from the Sheffield University, and members of the RAF from nearby stations took part in the excavation, which is the first to have been extensively investigated since the 19th century.
Dr Willmott said: “Children were notably absent in the parts of the cemetery excavated this year, however, one of the most striking burials was that of a richly-dressed woman who was buried with a baby cradled in her left arm.
“The preservation of the skeletal remains, as well as the many grave finds, provide an exciting opportunity to explore the social and cultural dynamics of the community who chose to bury their dead on this chalky outcrop.”
Investigations are still ongoing at the site and this includes the stable isotope analysis of teeth and bone – this will allow experts to identify what food they ate and where they grew up as children.
Dr Hemer, lecturer in bioarchaeology, said: “Analysis also extends to a number of the finds, including the amber beads, which are being provenanced in collaboration with colleagues from Sheffield’s Department of Physics.
“We will analyse the elemental composition of the metalwork and identify the elephant species which produced the ivory rings.
“The project’s multi-faceted investigation, which incorporates cutting-edge scientific techniques, will enable Sheffield archaeologists to ask and answer significant questions about early Anglo-Saxon communities in eastern England.”