Ancient, News

A 1400-Year-Old Anglo-Saxon Burial Mystery to be Unravelled

Modern scientific methods can now help solve the puzzle about the identities of a Saxon pair buried 1,400 years ago. Discovered at Lowbury Hill in 1913 and 1914, their identification is closer than we think!

The Universities of Reading, Cranfield, and Oxfordshire Museum Service are conducting further research on the remains.

An Esteemed Individual?

The man’s remains are currently at the Oxfordshire Museum in Woodstock. On the other hand, the woman’s bones remained in storage until recently.

Earlier investigations suggest that the male was an esteemed member of society. He was a warrior who resided in Cornwall or western Ireland in the seventh century. He was buried at Lowbury Hill. Upon excavation, experts uncovered several fascinating objects from his grave.

Lowbury Hill
Part of this Bronze hanging bowl was found with the man at Lowbury Hill

These objects included a sword, a shield, and a Saxon spearhead with enamel. In addition to a knife, archaeologists also found shears, a bronze hanging bowl, and a bone comb. Someone was ready for his afterlife.

These findings suggest that he held a significant position in the Anglo-Saxon era. His location within an early medieval barrow only adds to the suggestion. With the number of weapons in his grave, some specialists speculate that he might have also been a soldier.

An Eve to Every Adam 

Experts discovered the Lowbury Man in proximity to a woman. She was interred in alignment with the wall of a Roman-era enclosure on the hill’s summit. The woman’s skeletal remains suggest she was roughly 40 years old at her death. Additionally, radiocarbon dating revealed that she was buried between 550 and 650 AD.

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Ph.D. candidate and Head Researcher Summer Courts commented that the woman was buried without unusual objects. However, her remains can still reveal her story. In addition, she believes they can still offer fresh insights into the past.

Last year, the remains of both individuals underwent comprehensive laboratory analysis.

Courts examined the remains as part of her Ph.D. studies at the University of Reading. Professor Amy Smith, the supervisor and curator of the University’s Ure Museum oversaw the process.

Professor Amy C Smith
Professor Amy Smith from Reading University oversaw the examination of the finds.

They are anticipating that the advanced analysis will authenticate aspects of the pair. For instance, the results will reveal their genders, ancestry, possible kinship, lifestyle, and health status.

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“This is an enthralling site with a rich history. We are optimistic that through the use of contemporary archaeological techniques, and with the help of the local community, we can gain further insights into the lives of these two individuals and the significance of the Lowbury Hill location,” stated the Ph.D. candidate. 

Breakthrough for a Blast to the Past

Cranfield Forensic Institute is in charge of carrying out the bone analysis.

“We desire to learn more about the past communities’ utilisation of the site, as well as the identities of the two individuals who were buried on the hill and the reasoning behind their communities’ decision to bury them there,” stated the team.

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Dr. Sophie Beckett co-supervises the project. Dr. Stephan Schiffels received the samples at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Germany for further study.

Lowbury Hill
The male skeleton found at Lowbury Hill was initially discovered and removed in 1913 and 1914

The results from the investigation will be available later this year.

Experts returned the man’s bones to the Oxfordshire Museum in February. Now, they’re under the oversight of co-supervisor Angie Bolton, the Archaeology Manager at Oxfordshire Museum Service. The public expects the results in due course.

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The investigations of the site provide valuable insights into the lives of Anglo-Saxons. The investigation’s results may enhance our knowledge of the Anglo-Saxon period. Moreover, it may also shed light on its impact on British history.

But, for now, we must wait and let the experts do their job!