A Pig in a Coffin, A Pregnant Goat, and a Dog That Died in Childbirth: What Were Bizarre Animal Remains Doing in an Anglo-Saxon Church?

A Pig in a Coffin, A Pregnant Goat, and a Dog That Died in Childbirth: What Were Bizarre Animal Remains Doing in an Anglo-Saxon Church?

(Read the article on one page)

A group of archaeologists carrying out a routine excavation at a Greek Orthodox church in Shropshire, England, made an extraordinary discovery on the final day of their dig – bizarre animal burials, a pit of human skulls, and the remains of an Anglo-Saxon church. So why were animals ritualistically buried on consecrated ground?

Discovery Takes Place on the Final Day of the Dig

The site was being investigated after Shropshire Council gave consent for housing adjacent to the church. The archaeologists were on a mission to find the remains of a wooden beam, post or other object that would help them to accurately date the site, before it was due to be sealed to make way for a road and car park. Luckily, on the final day of part of the dig, they found the determining piece of evidence that they were looking for: a 15-inch section of an upright wooden post, thought to be a door post. Project manager Janey Green, of Baskerville Archaeological Services, told Shropshire Live , “I had a hunch there was an Anglo-Saxon church here, the site was rumored to be Anglo-Saxon and the vital piece of evidence that we need to be able to prove that it is Anglo-Saxon came at the last hour literally!”

Janey Green and her team of excavators with the wooden door post found at Sutton Farm. Credit: Baskerville Archaeological Services

Animal Burials Pre-date the Christian Period

Archaeologists also said the finds, which include a calf, a pig and a dog that died while giving birth, were "unprecedented". In total, two dogs, a calf, some birds and a pig were discovered on the site at the Greek Orthodox Church, on Oteley Road, along with the remains of an early medieval woman and a pit full of human skulls. Miss Green speculates the animal burials pre-date the Christian period, “It was a huge surprise to find these burials in a church graveyard. To find animals buried in consecrated ground is incredibly unusual because it would have been a big no no. The bones don’t show any signs of butchery and the animals appear to have been deliberately and carefully laid in the ground. The site is a few hundred meters from known prehistoric human burial mounds so they may be connected,” she told Shropshire Live .

She also suggests that it would be impossible for the remains dating back to the Victorian period, even though she thinks that the use of technology will help them to accurately define the dates of the finds, “Initially I thought I may have come across a whimsical Victorian burial of a beloved pet. But the Victorians usually left objects in the graves such as a collar, a letter or a posie of flowers and we haven’t found a shred of evidence of anything like that here. Neither is there evidence that the animals were fallen farm stock that were disposed of in modern times. The next step is to have the bones carbon dated and we’re hoping funds would be available for that,” she told Shropshire Live .

More than Six Months of Work

For the end, Ms. Green mentioned that the company had been working on the site for more than six months even though they managed to unearth the animal burials just recently. "We didn't in our wildest dreams imagine we would find what we have," she said. The company was called in as a condition of the planning consent given by Shropshire Council for homes to be built opposite. Ms. Green also stated that she did not know why the animals were buried together and speculates a number of theories, including a possible link to a nearby Bronze Age site. The remains will now be tested to determine their age before being re-buried on the site.

Top image: Janey Green of Baskerville Archaeology Services digging up bones in Oteley Road. Credit: Baskerville Archaeological Services

By Theodoros Karasavvas

Comments

It was obviously some one's favorite pig.

Its also possible these animal remains were part of occult rituals used in magical ceremonies.

Register to become part of our active community, get updates, receive a monthly newsletter, and enjoy the benefits and rewards of our member point system OR just post your comment below as a Guest.

Top New Stories

The Spirit of the Dead Keeps Watch’ (1892) by Paul Gauguin.
A belief in ghosts is held by many cultures (both modern and ancient) around the world. Some of these ghost beliefs are well-known, whilst others, such as those held by the Polynesians, are less so. In terms of geography, Polynesia covers a large area in the central and southern parts of the Pacific Ocean.

Myths & Legends

An image of Enki from the Adda cylinder seal.
In the belief system of the Sumerians, Enki (known also as Ea by the Akkadians and Babylonians) was regarded to be one of the most important deities. Originally Enki was worshipped as a god of fresh water and served as the patron deity of the city of Eridu (which the ancient Mesopotamians believe was the first city to have been established in the world). Over time, however, Enki’s influence grew and this deity was considered to have power over many other aspects of life, including trickery and mischief, magic, creation, fertility, and intelligence.

Human Origins

Detail of ‘God creating the Sun, the Moon and the Stars’ by Jan Brueghel the Younger.
Although most mainstream scientists and most of the developed world now accept the theory of evolution and the scientifically established age of Earth and the universe, there is still a group of people that resist the status quo and insist, based on a particular literal interpretation of Genesis 1-11 in the Hebrew Bible

Ancient Technology

Representation of an ancient Egyptian chariot.
The wheel can be considered mankind’s most important invention, the utility of which is still applied in multiple spheres of our daily life. While most other inventions have been derived from nature itself, the wheel is 100% a product of human imagination. Even today, it would be difficult to imagine what it would be like without wheels, since movement as we know it would be undeniably impossible.

Opinion

El Caracol Observatory at Chichen Itza (Wright Reading/CC BY-NC 2.0) and Composite 3D laser scan image of El Caracol from above
In 1526, the Spanish conquistador Francisco de Montejo arrived on the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico and found most of the great Maya cities deeply eroded and unoccupied. Many generations removed from the master builders, engineers, and scientists who conceived and built the cities, the remaining Maya they encountered had degenerated into waring groups who practiced blood rituals and human sacrifice.

Our Mission

At Ancient Origins, we believe that one of the most important fields of knowledge we can pursue as human beings is our beginnings. And while some people may seem content with the story as it stands, our view is that there exists countless mysteries, scientific anomalies and surprising artifacts that have yet to be discovered and explained.

The goal of Ancient Origins is to highlight recent archaeological discoveries, peer-reviewed academic research and evidence, as well as offering alternative viewpoints and explanations of science, archaeology, mythology, religion and history around the globe.

We’re the only Pop Archaeology site combining scientific research with out-of-the-box perspectives.

By bringing together top experts and authors, this archaeology website explores lost civilizations, examines sacred writings, tours ancient places, investigates ancient discoveries and questions mysterious happenings. Our open community is dedicated to digging into the origins of our species on planet earth, and question wherever the discoveries might take us. We seek to retell the story of our beginnings. 

Ancient Image Galleries

View from the Castle Gate (Burgtor). (Public Domain)
Door surrounded by roots of Tetrameles nudiflora in the Khmer temple of Ta Phrom, Angkor temple complex, located today in Cambodia. (CC BY-SA 3.0)
Cable car in the Xihai (West Sea) Grand Canyon (CC BY-SA 4.0)
Next article