Massive Anglo-Saxon cemetery and treasure unearthed in England

One of the 154 Anglo-Saxon burials found at the site in Northamptonshire
Shown here, one of the 154 Anglo-Saxon burials found at the site in Northamptonshire. (Image credit: Museum of London Archaeology (MOLA))

 A massive Anglo-Saxon burial site has been uncovered in Northamptonshire in the U.K. Nearby, archaeologists also discovered a 4,000-year-old Bronze Age burial site. 

The archaeologists uncovered a total of 154 Anglo-Saxon burials, dating back around 1,500 years, holding nearly 3,000 objects, from weapons to jewelry.  

A nearby Anglo-Saxon settlement also held 42 structures that were approximately 1,500 years old. The Anglo-Saxon period lasted for about 600 years from about 410 to 1066, when migrants settled in England, so the new discovery would have dated to the early part of that period.

Related: In photos: Rare Anglo-Saxon cemetery uncovered

Older finds at the site included 46 prehistoric burials and seven structures — three burial mounds called barrows and four buildings — dating back to the Bronze Age, which lasted from about 2300 B.C. to 800 B.C. in Britain. The treasure trove of artifacts provides a snapshot of how these ancient people lived and died.

The site was only discovered when several companies began developing a new housing estate near the small village of Overstone. Archaeologists from the Museum of London Archaeology (MOLA) carried out the site excavation, which was funded by the housing companies that bought the land, Barratt and David Wilson Homes. 

"The Overstone site contains by far the biggest Anglo-Saxon cemetery ever found in Northamptonshire," project manager Simon Markus, an archaeologist at MOLA, said in a statement. "It is rare to find both an Anglo-Saxon settlement and a cemetery in a single excavation."

Anglo-Saxon textiles became mineralized due to close proximity to a metal brooch. (Image credit: Museum of London Archaeology (MOLA))

 The team unearthed approximately 150 brooches, 15 rings, 2,000 beads, 25 spears, 40 knives and 15 shields, as well as personal objects such as cosmetic kits and bone combs. Another noteworthy find was a patch of Anglo-Saxon textiles. Usually, such ancient fabric disintegrates before archaeologists can get to it, but this scrap was mineralized and preserved by a nearby metal brooch.  

 "The excavations will help us understand the way people lived in both the Anglo-Saxon period, around 1,500 years ago as well as the Bronze Age, nearly 4,000 years ago," Markus said in the statement. "The human remains will tell us about diet, health and even the origins of the people themselves, whilst their buildings can teach us what their day-to-day lives were like and how they utilized the local landscape in these two different periods."

Originally published on Live Science.

Harry Baker
Senior Staff Writer

Harry is a U.K.-based senior staff writer at Live Science. He studied marine biology at the University of Exeter before training to become a journalist. He covers a wide range of topics including space exploration, planetary science, space weather, climate change, animal behavior, evolution and paleontology. His feature on the upcoming solar maximum was shortlisted in the "top scoop" category at the National Council for the Training of Journalists (NCTJ) Awards for Excellence in 2023.