From the grave

Country Life Every Week - - Town & Country -

AN An­glo-saxon ceme­tery with six rare, well-pre­served 7th–9th-cen­tury wooden coffins and graves, per­haps the ear­li­est known ex­am­ples in the coun­try, has been dis­cov­ered in Nor­folk. Ar­chae­ol­o­gists from the Mu­seum of London dis­cov­ered the site, fi­nal rest­ing place of a com­mu­nity of early Chris­tians, at Great Ry­burgh in ad­vance of works to im­prove lo­cal flood de­fences.

Tim Pestell, curator at Nor­wich Cas­tle Mu­seum, where some of the finds will be kept, com­ments: ‘The site was in use in the hey­day of the An­glo-saxon king­dom, po­si­tioned next to a strate­gic river cross­ing. We have no doc­u­men­tary sources re­lat­ing to this site, and finds like this help us un­der­stand the king­dom in a fas­ci­nat­ing pe­riod when Chris­tian­ity and the Church were still de­vel­op­ing on the ground.’

‘This ceme­tery has only been re­vealed be­cause of cur­rent plan­ning reg­u­la­tions, which re­quire ar­chae­o­log­i­cal sur­veys to be car­ried out be­fore work on a sen­si­tive site starts,’ adds Dun­can Wil­son, chief ex­ec­u­tive of His­toric Eng­land, which funded the project.

The An­glo-saxon king­dom of East Anglia boasted a war­rior aris­toc­racy of great wealth. In­deed, in the 7th cen­tury, under ruler Raed­wald, it was the most pow­er­ful of the early English king­doms. Jack Watkins

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