A real gem of a find
A ROYAL Anglo-Saxon cemetery with some of the finest gold jewellery to be found in Britain has been discovered in the North-East.
The 109 burials arranged in a rectangular pattern and dating from around the middle of the Seventh Century, have been unearthed on farmland near Loftus on Teesside.
“This is the only known Anglo-Saxon royal burial site in the North of England. It is the most dramatic find of Anglo-Saxon material for generations – certainly something to get Beowulf excited about,” said Robin Daniels, archaeological officer with Hartlepool-based Teesside Archaeology.
What is mystifying archaeologists is that the sumptuous gems are all of a style found in the south of England. The speculation is that the royals buried on Teesside are linked to the Kentish princess Ethelburga, who travelled north to marry Edwin, King of Northumbria.
She brought with her the Bishop Paulinus who baptised Northumbrian converts at Edwin’s Ad Gefrin royal palace site at Yeavering, near Wooler, in Northumberland.
At the centre of the Teesside site is a bed burial – one of only about a dozen to be found in the UK. None have been previously known in the North-East.
It is likely that a royal woman was buried on the timber bed, covered in furs and jewels.
Mr Daniels said that one of several gold pendants found was comparable to the famous Sutton Hoo treasure find. “Nothing like this pendant has been found in this country and we are struggling to find a European parallel,” he said. “In terms of jewellery I can’t think of anything in the North-East to match this. It is incredible.”
The cemetery was discovered by freelance archaeologist Steve Sherlock, who was investigating what was thought to be an earlier Iron Age site which had shown up as a cropmark on an aerial photograph.
Objects found at the site include the gold pendants, gold discs with filigree working, Iron Age coins re-used as jewellery, silver brooches, a sword, glass beads, pottery, iron knives and belt buckles. Mr Daniels said: “These people are from the very highest rank of society. I have no doubt they are royal, and I have do doubt they are from the south.”