LONDON – New human remains may offer a rare glimpse of life in Britain through the fall of the Roman Empire and the establishment of the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms.
Experts have hailed the 1,600-year-old cemetery, which was discovered near the city of Leeds, some 200 miles north of London, as a “once in a lifetime” find given that it dates back to ancient and medieval times. bridges the gap.
Among the remains of more than 60 men, women and children is what is believed to be a late-Roman elite woman, Leeds City Council said in a statement on Monday.
The woman was found inside an ancient lead sarcophagus at an archaeological dig near the Leeds suburb of Garforth.
Officials said the site may also indicate early Christian and Saxon burial rituals, and marks a major crossroads in a little-understood period in which the Roman Empire began its gradual decline and eventual collapse in the west. This happened as Germanic tribes migrated from mainland Europe.
England takes its name from one of the main groups that came from modern Denmark and Germany after the fifth century: the Angles, Saxons and Jutes.
In a press release, on-site supervisor for the dig, Kylie Buxton, said, “It is every archaeologist’s dream to work on a once in a lifetime site and supervising these digs is definitely a career high for me. ”
“There is always an opportunity for burial, but to discover a cemetery of such importance at such a time of transition was quite incredible.”
Carbon dating is underway to establish the exact time of burial, as well as chemical testing which is expected to shed light on dietary habits and ancestry.
The site was discovered in spring 2022, but so far no announcements have been made in an effort to preserve the site while tests are carried out. The exact location of the site has not been revealed, but remains of Roman and Anglo-Saxon buildings have been found nearby.
“This has the potential to be a find of great importance to what we understand about the development of ancient Britain and Yorkshire,” said David Hunter, principle archaeologist at the West Yorkshire Joint Services.
“The presence of two communities using the same burial site is highly unusual and whether or not the use of this cemetery overlapped will determine how significant the find is.”
Once the analysis is done, there are plans to display the main coffin at Leeds City Museum in an exhibition on death customs around the world.
The Saxons attempted to bury their dead with objects of special importance such as knives and pottery. The most famous Anglo-Saxon burial site, Sutton Hoo – thought to be a burial vessel to honor the 7th-century king Rædwald – contained a magnificent collection of jeweled helmets and weapons.
The fourth Roman Emperor Claudius launched an invasion of Britain in 43AD, supposedly using an army of 20,000 men and even armored elephants. By the dawn of the 1st century, Rome had established its power in southern Britain and later contested all the way to the northern region marked by a massive wall built by Emperor Hadrian.
That control came to an abrupt end in 409-10AD as Rome’s forces could get away, the empire distracted by pressure from invading barbarians in Italy and Gaul.
The empire would survive another 1,000 years from its eastern power base of Constantinople, but it could be confined to the west for decades. Roman nobles fled Britain as villas and towns fell into disrepair, burying what they could not take with them.
Leeds is believed to have been the center of the mystical Celtic kingdom of Elmet, one of several established after the decline of Roman control but before the dominance of Anglo-Saxon kingdoms or the arrival of the Vikings in the 8th century.
Experts will investigate whether the newly discovered graves provide more evidence of how the people of Elmet lived alongside Saxon neighbors at a time when England was increasingly leaving behind its pagan traditions and converting to Christianity. Was happening