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A glass counter decorated with twisted colorful strands was found at the site.

Impressive Middle Saxon Artifacts Uncovered at Anglo-Saxon Island Discovered in English Field


Archaeologists have uncovered the remains of an Anglo-Saxon island that was discovered by a metal detectorist. The island was found at Little Carlton near Louth, Lincolnshire. The archaeologists believe that the island was the home of a wealthy Middle Saxon settlement.

The Guardian reports that metal detectorist Graham Vickers found a silver stylus from the 8th century in a plough field in 2011. He reported the discovery and the excavation that followedfound hundreds more artifacts.

According to the BBC, the artifacts include 20 more styli from the 8th century, butchered animal bones, and a small lead tablet engraved with the female Anglo-Saxon name 'Cudberg'.

This Cudberg inscription made animpression on Dr. Hugh Willmott of the University of Sheffield. Discussing the artifact, he said:

“There’s a lot of lead in this site - 35 kilos have been metal detected and if this piece didn’t have an inscription, it wouldn’t warrant comment. But over a thousand years ago somebody took this small piece of lead and scratched the name ‘Cudberg’ into it. That transforms it. Cudberg is a woman’s name. This object is all that survives of this individual. When you’re holding this bit of lead you’re holding the one surviving element of that human being. I’ve never seen anything like it and it’s really very special...”

Cudberg inscription.

Cudberg inscription. (The University of Sheffield)

Almost immediately after seeing the silver stylus that Vickers detected, Dr. Willmott knew that the Anglo-Saxon settlement hidden underground was unique. His statement on the university’s Facebook page explains:

"This is a solid silver stylus: the find that told us this was more than just an ordinary small Saxon site. That’s because a writing implement like this is a very high status object. We can conclude from it that this site isn’t an ordinary village - it’s a monastic site or a secular elite site for controlling trade and exchange. A stylus like this would originally have been used to inscribe into wax tablets. The curious flat shape at the opposite end from the nib is bent from being in the plough soil but it’s actually a kind of eraser for rubbing out mistakes in the wax..."

A silver stylus discovered at Little Carlton.

A silver stylus discovered at Little Carlton. (University of Sheffield)

History states that approximately 300 dress pins and a horde of coins (‘Sceattas’) dating from the 7th and 8th centuries were also found at the site. Dr. Willmott’s description of the coins on the University of Sheffield’s Facebook page says:

“This type of coinage is found across North Western Europe on high status trading sites and it would have been involved in international trade. But it also tells us about local context - we’ve got elites minting a currency, wanting to control resources. It’s not necessarily a king pictured on the face of this object. What the mint might be doing is imitating continental and Roman coins. It’s as much someone’s idea of what a coin should be...”

A Sceat found at the site.

A Sceat found at the site. (University of Sheffield)

Past Horizons reports that Dr. Willmott and Pete Townend, a doctoral student from the University of Sheffield’s Department of Archaeology, carried out targeted geophysical and magnetometry surveys of the site along with 3D modelling to get a complete image of the landscape.

A map showing metal scatter in the field at Little Carlton.

A map showing metal scatter in the field at Little Carlton. (University of Sheffield)

Their results “showed that the island they had discovered was much more obvious than the land today, rising out of its lower surroundings.” To really make it stand out, “the researchers raised the water level digitally to bring it back up to its early medieval height based on the topography and geophysical survey.”

How the archaeologists think Little Carlton, Lincolnshire, looked in 750 AD.

How the archaeologists think Little Carlton, Lincolnshire, looked in 750 AD. (University of Sheffield)

Following the geophysical and magnetometry surveys and the 3D modelling, University of Sheffield archaeology students dug nine evaluation trenches to reveal "a wealth of information about what life would have been like at the settlement", according to Dr. Wilmott.

What they found was Middle Saxon pottery, some of which came from Germany. Dr. Wilmott said that the discovery shows that “Far from being very isolated in the early medieval period, Lincolnshire was actually connected in a much wider world network, with trade spanning the whole of the North Sea. This little field in Lincolnshire is part of a connected European trading network.”

Furthermore, he told the BBC that the discoveries they have made at Little Carlton are “tremendously important to our knowledge of early medieval times since very few Middle Saxon documents exist.”

Featured Image: A glass counter decorated with twisted colorful strands was found at the site. Source: University of Sheffield

By Alicia McDermott



I have studied this area extensively, because just to the north is a site called Cunningesholme, which translates to King Inge’s Islet. A Holme was a small inhabited island.

In the 11th century the shore was a mile or so further inland than today. This people who lived here often travelled far to places like Kiev, Greece, Rome, Scotland and Sweden. 

Dr. Derek Cunningham
Author of:
The Map that Talked - How astronomy was used to map the ancient world
The Babel Texts - Decoding the early text of the Stone Age
Scotland and Shakespeare's Third Prophecy - Recovering Scotland's Forgotten past

Alicia McDermott's picture


Alicia McDermott holds degrees in Anthropology, Psychology, and International Development Studies and has worked in various fields such as education, anthropology, and tourism. Traveling throughout Bolivia, Peru, Colombia, and Ecuador, Alicia has focused much of her research on Andean cultures... Read More

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