discovery of an exceptional necropolis from late Antiquity

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British archaeologists have unearthed a late Antiquity necropolis located under a former student residence at the prestigious University of Cambridge. It is a potentially active necropolis from the end of the Roman era to the beginning of the Anglo-Saxon era.

A very promising discovery

A statement of King’s College London published on January 21, 2021 relates the discovery of one of the largest ancient necropolises. This was unearthed during excavations on the Cambridge University campus, with the collaboration of Albion archeology. It could well be one of the most promising discoveries of Anglo-Saxon archeology since the 19th century.

The excavations concerned one site in particular, namely the locality of Croft Gardens (see photo below). However, it housed former student accommodation dating from the 1930s. Since the 19th century, researchers have suspected the presence of an ancient necropolis. However, the discovery amazes by the large surface covered by this same necropolis.

Credit: King’s College London

Archaeologists have unearthed no less than sixty graves, whose state of conservation is excellent. The same goes for the funerary furniture which represents a total of about two hundred objects. Among these objects, we find pearl necklaces, pottery, glass bottles or even bronze fibulas. Dating has confirmed that these objects are mostly dated 5th or 6th century. This corresponds to the beginning of the Anglo-Saxon era. Nevertheless, some burials and ceramics are typical of the Roman era, as well as of the Iron Age.

Cambridge necropolis remains
Credit: Albion Archeology

Research to continue

For researchers, this discovery gives an exceptional opportunity explore Britain from the very beginning of the Middle Ages. In particular, this can help to learn more about the interactions between the island and the mainland, as well as the evolution of lifestyles in the region. In addition, new data could fill in some gaps at the level of knowledge about the inhabitants of East Anglia at the end of the Roman period.

Soon, new studies should concern remains and funeral material recently discovered. The objective will be to learn more about the identity and the way of life of the first Anglo-Saxons. The mission of archeology will be to find potential traces of the Justinian plague (541-767) and possible vestiges of the Roman occupation of the site.

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