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High status Anglo-Saxon burials in Suffolk

High status Anglo-Saxon burials in Suffolk, England, may be linked to ancient King of East Anglia

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In a surprise find in the village of Exning in Suffolk, England, 20 graves have been unexpectedly uncovered on land slated for development. The skeletons and other artifacts are considered to be of high status, and are in excellent condition. Exning was an important settlement with royal connections and the possibility has been raised that these individuals may have had connections to King Anna of East Anglia, who is known to have been in the village during the same era.

In all, 21 skeletons have been found, including four or five adolescents, and two in a double burial plot. According to the BBC, the remains date back to around 650 AD, and are awaiting further examination.

A double grave with two skeletons was found at the site

A double grave with two skeletons was found at the site. (Archaeological Solutions)

Andrew Peachey, from Archaeological Solutions, told the BBC, “One burial was very intricate with a wooden or iron frame possibly underneath the body. It may be what's known as a bed burial, but again it's too early to tell until everything is cleaned up properly. Another appears to be a warrior burial. A spearhead and dagger were found with the bones."

The village of Exning has connections to King Anna who ruled East Anglia in the 7 th century. Anna (or Onna) was king of East Anglia from the early 640s until his death in 653 or 654 AD. In 631, Anna is believed to have been in Exning, an important settlement with royal connections, and, according to the Liber Eliensis, his daughter Æthelthryth was born and baptized there. Exning was an important place strategically, as it stood just on the East Anglian side of the Devil's Dyke, a major earthwork stretching between the Fen edge and the headwaters of the River Stour, built at an earlier date to defend the East Anglian region from attack.

The Devil's Dyke, near Exning, where King Anna is believed to have been in 631

The Devil's Dyke, near Exning, where King Anna is believed to have been in 631 (Wikipedia)

According to Cambridge News, the artifacts found with the bodies suggest the people were of high status and wealth, and may therefore have had links to the royal household in the region. Archaeologists have recovered a spear, gold plated jewelry, a cloak pin, a dagger, and a glass bowl which may have originated from the Rhineland. Some of the items are thought to date from 7 AD.

The bones are thought to be the remains of Anglo-Saxon peoples – descendants of early Germanic-speaking groups that migrated to southern England from continental Europe around 410 AD, after the fall of the Roman Empire.

Archaeologists were surprised by the discovery as the development site at Exning had been searched previously and did not appear to be a burial ground. However, the graves were a mere foot (0.3 meters) beneath the surface, and Mr. Peachey expressed astonishment that the years of agriculture on the land had not disturbed the graves. “Ploughs must have just about been skimming across them,” he said.

The bones were extremely well preserved

The bones were extremely well preserved. (Archaeological Solutions)

Archaeological Solutions and the real estate developers, Persimmon Homes, will continue to work together to retrieve the finds before construction of the 120 new homes planned for the site.

Featured Image: The ages of the skeletons is still unknown, pending further examinations. (Archaeological Solutions)

By Liz Leafloor



Birdog's picture

Great story. Please keep me posted. Is it my imagination or are these larger than normal skeletons?

Justbod's picture

It will be very interesting to see how this develops and what further findings and conclusions come out of it. I love that even ground considered 'empty' can still hold surprises. It shows just how many things are yet to be found. Exciting!
Thanks for the article!

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Liz Leafloor is former Art Director for Ancient Origins Magazine. She has a background as an Editor, Writer, and Graphic Designer. Having worked in news and online media for years, Liz covers exciting and interesting topics like ancient myth, history,... Read More

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