the cemetery have served an as-yet undiscovered trading centre, presumably located nearby to take advantage of easy access to the River Wensum? Or could this have been a more inward-looking religious community? The prominence of adults among the dead – unless children were buried separately in an unexcavated part of the site – lends credence to suggestions of a monastic population. Moreover, the uniformity of burial practices, and the orderly arrangement of the graves and lack of intercutting, might suggest that the cemetery was only short-lived, perhaps used by only a couple of generations – something that further dating analysis may help to clarify.
The team’s research has already revealed why the cemetery had been dug in what would, at first glance, appear to be counterintuitively boggy ground: historical documents report that the course of the river had actually been changed in more recent times, deliberately diverted to serve a nearby mill – something that makes the resulting waterlogging of the land, and the remarkable preservation that it permitted, seem all the more serendipitous.
Perhaps the most intriguing question raised by the site, however, is whether its strikingly conservative timber-related funerary practices represent a local quirk or, given that the use of wood in such contexts is known elsewhere, might this be a rare snapshot of a much more widespread phenomenon, illuminating previously littleunderstood Middle Saxon burial customs? Either way, the Great Ryburgh site has thrown open a window on an early Christian rural community and, as post-excavation analysis continues, one that may yet reveal many more secrets. GReat ryburgh below Careful attention was required to ensure that the wooden coffins did not dry out and deteriorate during the excavation. Further information Read more about the finds at www. mola.org.uk/blog/discovery-rare-anglosaxon-burials-revealed and https:// historicengland.org.uk/whats-new/news/ survival-of-rare-anglo-saxon-coffins, and explore a 3D interactive model of a log coffin burial at https://sketchfab.com/mo dels/116c131fac8443ccbec7ff2f19f5173a
Acknowledgements Grateful thanks are due to MOLA and Historic England for their help in putting together the story, and to MOLA Nort hampton’s Ant Maul l and Mark Holmes for helping Carly get to the site, and showing her around the excavation.