3,000 grave goods unearthed from Anglo-Saxon cemetery in Northamptonshire

Archaeologists have unearthed almost 3,000 objects from 154 burials in an Anglo-Saxon cemetery in Overstone Leys, Northamptonshire. It is the largest Anglo-Saxon burial ground ever discovered in Northamptonshire. Most of the grave goods are jewelry, including 2,000 beads, 150 brooches, 15 finger rings, 75 bracelets and 15 chatelaines. There are also numerous weapons — 25 spears, 40 knives, 15 shield bosses — and utilitarian items like combs and cosmetic kits. Very rare textiles remains survived attached to some of the metal objects, mineralized by their corrosion.

A team from Museum of London Archaeology (MOLA) has been excavating the site of housing development for the past year. In addition to the cemetery, the MOLA team has also discovered an Anglo-Saxon settlement with 22 grouped structures and another 20 found elsewhere on the 15-hectare site. There are also Bronze Age barrows and structures, so in total there are 4,000 years of occupation at Overstone Leys.

Simon Markus, MOLA Project Manager:

“It is rare to find both an Anglo-Saxon settlement and a cemetery in a single excavation. 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. 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 utilised the local landscape in these two different periods.”

Overview of excavation at Overstone. Photo courtesy MOLA.