Archaeologists working at an HS2 site have discovered a graveyard containing nearly 140 graves, including a skeleton with a weapon still embedded.
The site, in Wendover, Buckinghamshire, contained 138 graves, with 141 regular burials and five cremation burials, making it one of the largest Anglo-Saxon cemeteries ever discovered in Britain.
A skeleton, believed to be male, was found with a sharp iron object embedded in its spine, which experts believe may have caused or factored in its death.
The man was thought to be between 17 and 24 years old at the time of death and was examined by specialist osteologists who believe he was stabbed with the weapon from the front, before it embedded itself in his spine.
Items from the 5th and 6th centuries were found, including 89 brooches, more than 2,000 amber beads, 51 knives, 40 buckles, 15 spear points, and various other metals and raw materials used to make the artifacts.
The discoveries have been filmed for historian Dan Snow’s streaming service History Hit.
Speaking on his podcast, the presenter said: “By studying the things our ancestors left on the ground, their glass, jewellery, weapons and even their bodies, we can build a rich picture of a dynamic and vital period in our history.
“This impressive set of discoveries on the HS2 trail may tell us more about how our predecessors lived, fought, and ultimately died.
“It is one of the best and most revealing post-Roman sites in the country and it was exciting to join the team as they uncovered their wonderful finds.”
A team of around 30 field archaeologists from INFRA JV, working on behalf of HS2 enabling works contractor Fusion JV, completed fieldwork at the site in 2021 and also found evidence of Neolithic, Bronze Age activity. , Iron Age and Roman.
Of note, a pair of small square-headed brooches were excavated, which are a miniature form of the large square-headed brooch, like the famous Chessell Down Brooch on display in the British Museum.
Two conical glass vessels that would have been used for drinking liquids such as wine were also found and suggest that those buried may have had access to fine beverages from abroad.
The beakers have decorative trails in the glass that are comparable to the “Kempston” type cone beaker, discovered in Bedfordshire in 1891, with one currently on display in the British Museum.
A woman’s body was found buried with a wide variety of high-quality goods, such as a full ornate glass bowl made of pale green glass, multiple rings made of copper alloy, a silver “zoomorphic” ring, brooches, discs , iron belt accessories and objects made of ivory.
Several items were also found that were likely used for grooming, including toiletries with earwax removers and toothpicks, tweezers, combs, and even a cosmetic tube that may have been used as eyeliner or the like.
Mike Court, Principal Archaeologist at HS2 Ltd, said: “As we near the end of our HS2 Phase One archeology fieldwork, we are only at the beginning of our understanding of how the discoveries will enhance our historical knowledge of Great Britain. Brittany.
“The archaeological finds made at this site in Wendover will not only be of interest to the local community, but are also of national importance, providing valuable insight into life in Anglo-Saxon Britain.”
Dr Rachel Wood, Principal Archaeologist at Fusion JV, said: “The importance of this site to our historical and archaeological understanding of Anglo-Saxon Britain is enormous.
“It’s not a site I would have expected to find; finding one of these burials would have been amazing, so finding so many is pretty incredible.”
The discoveries will be featured in a show about Dan Snow’s landmark success launching June 16.
An evaluation and analysis program will be carried out over the next few years at the site to try to find out more about the stories of the people buried at the site.