Archaeologists have unearthed a stunning grave and a cache of artifacts that provide light on a brief era in medieval English history when paganism and Christianity coexisted and women held positions of authority in the church.
The objects, which were discovered from a grave that dates back to 1400 AD and was located just outside of Northampton, England, are among the most important discoveries for this time period.
The little village of Harpole had been the site of an eight-week dig when, on April 11, the second-to-last day, archaeologist Levente-Bence Balázs noticed something sticking out of the ground. Two tooth crowns gave away a possible burial spot.
Then, according to Balázs, “two gold things emerged from the ground and gleamed at me.”
Being the first person to witness these relics after 1,300 years is an experience that cannot be described.
Archaeologists don’t often find gold glistening in the filth and clay. Balázs, the team leader of a group of five Museum of London Archaeology (MOLA) archaeologists, told CNN that this was the first time in his 17 years of excavation that he had discovered an artifact made of the pricey metal.
His crew discovered what is believed to be the “richest” necklace of its sort ever discovered in Britain: a lavish 30-piece necklace made of Roman coins, garnets, glass, and semi-precious stones.
Since necklaces are nearly always discovered with female bodies, it is reasonable to believe that the skeleton, which had decayed except for a few shards of teeth enamel, formerly belonged to a wealthy or high-ranking woman.
A substantial silver cross, two ornamented pots, and a little copper dish were also buried with the deceased.
The cross had degraded, but X-ray images of the dirt surrounding the burial showed that its shape was still discernible. Unusual silver human faces that had endured the test of time adorned the cross.
The assortment of artifacts in the cemetery indicates that the deceased person lived between 630 and 670 CE, when pagan and Christian faiths were still coexisting.
According to archaeological expert Simon Mortimer, “burying people with loads and lots of jewelry is a pagan notion, but this is obviously highly steeped in Christian iconography, so it’s that period of fairly rapid transformation.”
The woman may have been a wealthy Christian leader, such as the abbey head or a princess, based on the quality and meaning of the goods.
She must have been among the first women in Britain to assume a position of authority in the church, according to experts.
According to Balázs, this is the most remarkable early medieval female burial to be found in Britain. “To discover something like this is the stuff of archaeologists’ dreams.”
There have been a dozen more high-status women’s tombs discovered in England, some of which had necklaces comparable to this one. However, due to the prevalence of high-status men’s burials, only a small number of those sites are older than the 7th century CE.
According to Lyn Blackmore, an archaeologist at the Museum of London Archaeology, as Christianity spread, costly items like necklaces were less likely to be left at graves since the early Christian church disapproved of this practice.
“The Harpole Treasure is the wealthiest in terms of wealth invested, however it is not the richest in terms of the quantity of artifacts. Additionally, it contains the most holy symbolism and gold “During a news briefing, she said.
Before a house development, a business called Vistry Group hired archaeologists to explore the land.
Locals were preparing to move into the new home as the archaeologists revealed their findings this week. The burial site’s precise position is unknown, but it has not been covered by construction.
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