Anglo-Saxon Grave Discovered in England

Written By: Clare Kelly 

Research on the body of an Anglo-Saxon warlord makes archeologists question the accuracy of the current historical map of Britain following Roman rule. On Oct. 6, Science Daily reported the uncovering of the burial of a warrior in Berkshire that transformed the way historians view and conceptualize the Anglo-Saxon Era. Archeologists suggest that the warlord must have held a high status in order to be buried upon a hilltop that overlooks the Thames Valley. Kiona N. Smith reports in Ars Technica that the land “was supposed to have been an unimportant patch of the borderland between neighboring tribes 1,400 years ago” but that the position of the grave overlooking the Thames Valley makes researchers reanalyze these ideas. 

The position of the grave implies the new importance of the area. Originally, researchers believed the land between London and Oxford was “borderland,” but the uncovering of the grave reveals that this land was not touched. This means that the maps of the locations of Anglo-Saxon tribes might need altering as they prove inhabitants settled in this “borderland,” or at the very least, they used the land to bury their dead. The grave remained untouched until metal detectorists, Sue and Mick Washington, discovered the burial in 201, as reported by Science Daily. 

Sue Washington comments that “On two earlier visits I had received a large signal from this area which appeared to be deep iron and most likely not to be of interest. However, the uncertainty preyed on my mind and on my next trip I just had to investigate, and this proved to be third time lucky!” 

Ars Technica reports that his skeleton depicts the warrior as a “towering figure, especially in early medieval Europe, where people were smaller on average than modern populations,” standing at six feet tall. University of Reading archeologist, Gabor Thomas, and his group of researchers plan to conduct a forensic study and isotopic analysis to determine “the man’s age at death, how he died, what he ate, and where he lived.” The researchers know that this buried warrior was a warrior by the garment and equipment buried with him. Archeologists found a “sword lay in a scabbard of wood and leather, decorated with elaborate bronze fittings…bronze and glass bowls, two iron spearheads, and the metal fittings” usually found on wealthy men’s clothing during the early Anglo-Saxon Era in England. The buried warlord has been nicknamed Marlow Warlord. 

Ars Technica reports Archeologist Gabor Thomas’s thoughts on the discovery, “‘This is the first burial of its kind found in the mid-Thames basin, which is often overlooked in favor of the Upper Thames and London,” said Thomas. “It suggests that the people living in this region may have been more important than historians previously suggested.”

As Science Daily reports, The Head of the British Museum’s Portable Antiquities Scheme, Michael Lewis, exclaims, “This is a great example of archaeologists and metal-detectorists working together. Especially important is the fact that the finders stopped when they realised they had discovered something significant and called in archaeological assistance. By doing so they ensure much more could be learnt about this interesting burial.”

Pieta Greaves of Drakon Heritage and Conservation currently holds the obtained objects and plans to conduct further analysis that the Department of Archeology at the University of Reading will oversee. Concurrently, the group of researchers is seeking funds to continue their research.

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