Skeleton found near Cambridge evidence of first Christian burial in England

March 16, 2012 by Bob Yirka report
Anglo-Saxon bed burial with gold cross. Image (c) Cambridge University

( -- A British archeological team has unearthed the 1,400-year old remains of a sixteen year old girl buried with a gold and garnet cross on her chest. And because they also found with her, an iron chatelaine (belt hook) and purse, still attached to her leather belt with polished rocks and a knife, they believe she lived during a time when Britain was in the process of moving from paganism to Christianity.

The is approximately three miles south of in the village of Trumpington Meadows and the research team believes the remains are from a period between 650 and 680AD. They were found due to digging for a new housing development.

Adding to the story is the fact that three other skeletons were found nearby. Two were of females, also apparently in their teens and another whose gender has not been identified, but appears to have been someone who was slightly older than the rest of the group. Though it’s not been proved as yet, it appears likely the whole group succumbed around the same time to disease, probably the plague.

This video is not supported by your browser at this time.

It’s the small (3.5cm) cross the young girl was wearing when laid to rest that most excites historians though. Because of its quality, it’s likely the girl came from a rich or noble family. The introduction of from that period is believed to have started with the wealthy, which would add further credence to the idea that the young girl came from a family of means.

The young girl was also laid to rest, literally, in her bed, in the grave, another holdover from pagan times. Though the wood had long rotted away, the iron frame was still very much in evidence.

Another reason researchers and historians are so excited about the find is because of its rarity. Prior to finding this new burial site, only one other example of a person being buried with both a cross and bed have been found. The cross itself, the experts say, is an excellent example of the high quality of Anglo-Saxon metalwork, and adds more evidence to contradict those who call that time in European history, the dark ages. Thus far, the cross is only the fifth of its kind ever found in the UK.

Also, because the loops on the back of the cross are smooth and shiny, it appears the young girl, whoever she was, wore the cross most, if not all of the time. At her burial, it appears the cross was actually sewn into her garment.

Explore further: Young archaeologists dig up a mystery

Related Stories

Young archaeologists dig up a mystery

July 5, 2007

A group of teenagers taking part in a Cambridge University archaeological dig have unexpectedly unearthed the mysterious remains of a woman who could be more than 1,000 years old.

Children's evidence cross-examined

March 17, 2011

The complex question of how children should give evidence to court – particularly when it could be critical to convicting someone of child abuse – will be the subject of a University of Cambridge conference next ...

Recommended for you

From a very old skeleton, new insights on ancient migrations

October 9, 2015

Three years ago, a group of researchers found a cave in Ethiopia with a secret: it held the 4,500-year-old remains of a man, with his head resting on a rock pillow, his hands folded under his face, and stone flake tools surrounding ...

Mexican site yields new details of sacrifice of Spaniards

October 9, 2015

It was one of the worst defeats in one of history's most dramatic conquests: Only a year after Hernan Cortes landed in Mexico, hundreds of people in a Spanish-led convey were captured, sacrificed and apparently eaten.

Ancient genome from Africa sequenced for the first time

October 8, 2015

The first ancient human genome from Africa to be sequenced has revealed that a wave of migration back into Africa from Western Eurasia around 3,000 years ago was up to twice as significant as previously thought, and affected ...

Who you gonna trust? How power affects our faith in others

October 6, 2015

One of the ongoing themes of the current presidential campaign is that Americans are becoming increasingly distrustful of those who walk the corridors of power – Exhibit A being the Republican presidential primary, in which ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.