Saxons over the White Cliffs of Dover
Investigations by Canterbury Archaeological Trust have revealed five Anglo-Saxon graves, once part of a much larger area of burials on a chalk ridge overlooking the English Channel.
Dated by grave goods to the late 6th century, one man had been laid to rest with his shield placed over his face, and equipped with a spear, knife, and buckle, while a mature woman was found with a large disc brooch and a ‘necklace’ made of glass beads and copper-alloy trinkets. Two more skeletons were unaccompanied, while the fifth grave was empty.
Found during excavations for Luck-Now Developments Ltd, ahead of the creation of a new housing site at St Margaret’s at Cliffe, near Dover, the graves were set back about 400m from the cliff edge and are thought to represent traces of a much more extensive concentration of burials, now lost beneath modern development.
‘The whole ridge seems to have been covered with Anglo-Saxon and Bronze Age burials once,’ said project leader Keith Parfitt. ‘In the 18th century the antiquary William Stukeley noted “a great number of tumuli… close by one another”, while later in that century James Douglas reported that there were about 30 barrows here, covering nearly 1.5 acres. He opened 14 in 1782 but only one produced any grave goods: an Anglo-Saxon iron knife.’
By 1840, however, the Tithe Map shows that the ridge was under the plough, and most of the mounds were removed at this time – although occasional burials continued to be revealed during late 19thcentury and early 20th-century building works, as the area developed into a highclass holiday resort and, more recently, during the excavations by Canterbury Archaeological Trust.
‘In 2004 the Trust dug in the grounds of “Eden Roc”, former home of the famous actor Sir Johnston Forbes-Robertson,’ said Keith. ‘This revealed part of a substantial ring-ditch enclosing the site of a destroyed Bronze Age round barrow that had been levelled in 1920 to make way for ForbesRobertson’s new tennis court – exposing half a dozen inhumations in the process. We found three prehistoric crouched burials in the ditch fill, and three more immediately outside it, together with six inhumations from the Anglo-Saxon period, two of which had formerly been covered with their own small barrow mounds.’
He added: ‘This work clearly demonstrated that the prehistoric monument had subsequently served as a focus for the Anglo-Saxon burials, and there is a suggestion that at our current site, about 300m along the ridge from “Eden Roc”, the Anglo-Saxon burials had also been placed next to an earlier barrow. Together, these two investigations have now gone some way towards reconstructing an ancient burial landscape lost to view since the 18th century.’
l Tru st ica log
| Issue 276
LEFT A sixth-century Anglo-Saxon warrior burial, cut into a chalk ridge above Dover’s famous white cliffs. A shield boss can be seen covering his face.
WORLD NEWS Pharaonic foul play Ramesses III was murdered, say archaeologists following new analysis of the pharaoh’s remains. The Turin Judicial papyrus records an attempt on Ramesses’ life in 1155 BC, the final year of his reign. But while the ‘harem conspiracy’, led by one of the king’s secondary wives and their son, failed to seize the throne, it was unknown whether the assassination succeeded.
Now, CT scans of the pharaoh’s mummy have revealed a deep cut across his throat that would have killed the pharaoh instantly. A wedjet (Horus eye) amulet had been carefully placed inside it, perhaps in hope of healing the king in the afterlife.
Extra mature cheese Cheese-making developed in Northern Europe over 7,000 years ago, new research suggests. Pieces of sieve-like pottery, excavated in Poland 30 years ago and dated to the 6th millennium BC, were typologically interpreted as cheese-strainers. Now chemical analysis of fatty acids trapped in their fabric has revealed direct evidence that they processed dairy products. ‘We know that at that time most humans were intolerant to lactose,’ said Mélanie Salque, from the University of Bristol. ‘Low-lactose products like cheese exploit milk’s nutritional benefits efficiently without making people ill.’
most humans were intolerant to lactose,’ said Mélanie Salque, from the University of Bristol. ‘Low-lactose products
Filing down dates Polynesia was among the last places to be settled by humans, with the Lapita people arriving around 3,000 years ago. Now this occupation’s start can be narrowed down to a 16-year window using high-precision uranium-throrium dating techniques published in PLOS ONE. By examining coral files used by Tonga’s early inhabitants to sculpt wood and shell, researchers have pinpointed the arrival of humans to 2830-2846 years ago.
l l of Bristo of Bristo iversity iversity
/ Un lque lque
For more on these international archaeological stories, see the latest issue of:
C U R R E N T
www.world-archaeology.com magazine www.archaeology.co.uk | current archaeology