Saturday, October 18, 2008

Saxon Princess

British Archaeology (Issue 47, September 1999) also had this interesting article about the discovery of the grave of a Saxon Princess.

Grave of an early Saxon `Princess' found in Newark
"The grave of a wealthy and important early Anglo-Saxon woman - possibly the leader of an early group of settlers, or a leader's wife - has been excavated in Newark, Nottinghamshire, in advance of a housing scheme.

The richly-furnished grave originally lay under a barrow with an enclosure ditch, and was in a prime position overlooking the River Trent, some 100 yards from the Roman Fosse Way and close to the parish boundary. It was isolated from other burials. According to the excavator, consultant John Samuels, its form, contents and position suggest an individual of the highest status. A similar grave found last century at Caenby, north of Lincoln, has been interpreted as that of a king of Lindsey.

The grave-goods, although rich, may once have been richer as the grave had been disturbed - and possibly robbed - in the post-medieval period. Surviving artefacts include a decorated urn, a bronze-rimmed wooden bucket containing three corroded Roman coins, two pairs of silver wrist clasps, a gilded bronze disc perhaps once attached as a decoration to a box or a bag, 47 glass and amber beads (with one trimmed snail shell) from a necklace, an iron knife, and other items. A lamb was also buried in the grave. The artefacts date the grave to the 6th or early 7th century.

The occupant, apparently buried on her side, was a woman in her late 30s or early 40s. She was about 5ft 8in tall - tall for women in the period - and, to judge from her bones and joints, she was `robust' and muscular.

The burial may shed light on the origins of settlement at Newark. The modern place-name dates from the 11th century, and until recently no evidence for pre-Norman settlement had been found in the town. Excavations over recent years at Newark Castle, however, have uncovered signs of Anglo-Saxon occupation and defensive ditches dating as far back as the 5th century.

Bede, writing in the 8th century, mentioned a place called Tiowulfingacaestir - the defended town of Tiowulf's people - by the River Trent in this area. The town has never been firmly identified. According to Mr Samuels, however, the Saxon defences at Newark Castle and the new burial strongly suggest Tiowulfingacaestir was the forerunner of Newark. `It would be nice to think we may have found the grave of Tiowulf herself,' he said. "

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