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Has the burial of an Anglo-Saxon king been uncovered?

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Wessex founder Cerdic’s possible final resting place has emerged more than 1,000 years after it was named in an ancient royal charter.

Cerdic is an enigmatic figure from the same era of post-Roman British history as King Arthur. This warlord carved out a realm after bloody battles in Hampshire during the sixth century.

While depicted as an Anglo Saxon invader, his reign is shrouded in mystery because his name and that of several descendants are Brittonic and many scholars believe his rule began several decades later than stated in the Anglo Saxon Chronicle.

In the charter Edward the Elder, king of the Anglo Saxons and son of Alfred the Great, granted 10 hides to Winchester Cathedral, which was roughly 11,000 acres and now largely makes up St Mary Bourne parish in Hampshire. The charter, dated to 900 AD, featured various landmarks to show the boundary of the land, including ‘Ceardices Beorg’ in Old English that translates as ‘Cerdic’s Barrow’.

Inspired by research from academic George Grundy, the investigation discovered a burial mound in the exact location of Cerdic’s Barrow has been identified in Hampshire County Council’s Historic Environment Records. Although the tumulus has now been ploughed over, aerial photography in the 1960s and 70s showed traces of a massive barrow measuring 72ft in diameter. With a height of up to 12ft, this would have been a spectacular feature of the landscape.

Author Paul Harper, who carried out the research for a new book on Cerdic, said: “The exciting discovery has brought the story of Cerdic from a lost period of British history to life. This could be overwhelming proof that Cerdic was not just a product of fantasy in the chaotic aftermath of post-Roman Britain but a real warlord who forged a powerful realm which evolved into the nation of England. Barring King Arthur, no other figure from the early medieval period achieved such legendary status.”

This barrow’s location near Andover in Hampshire was worked out by pinpointing landmarks from the 10th century charter before and after. This included the Roman Road, a ‘Willow Grove’ (Withig Grafe) next to a wood which had a former watercourse running alongside, where such trees are traditionally found, and a ‘Barrow of the Ash Tree’ (Aesees Beorge) still marked on Ordnance Survey maps on the nearby Apsley Farm.

After his death, Cerdic was buried in a new mound or most likely a reused Bronze Age barrow. Such a practice was commonplace during the early Anglo-Saxon period based on a study which documented 334 examples of ancient monuments and structures being reused for burials between the fifth and eighth centuries*.

Cerdic’s Barrow was situated on a hill near an ancient trackway known as the Harrow Way used by Stone Age tin traders between Kent and Devon and close to a huge Offa’s Dyke style ditch that may have extended to the Wiltshire border in Chute parish around eight miles away. The former Roman Road called the ‘Portway’, between Old Sarum in Wiltshire and Silchester in Hampshire, was also visible in the distance.

Harper said: “It was no accident that Cerdic’s Barrow can be found at this site because it was a very public statement of power near ancient roads and a warning to his enemies in modern day Wiltshire that they could not miss in the shape of a huge burial mound. Cerdic was among a number of warlords fighting for territory in post-Roman Britain and his final resting place was deliberately placed with his rivals in mind. The message was clear that the land belongs to the Cerdicing dynasty and they enter at their own peril.”

In addition, Harper believes this corner of Hampshire also had sentimental value for Cerdic because the charter contains references to ‘haga’ and ‘hagan’, which are often associated with wooded enclosures for deer, and hunting the animals was a popular pastime for wealthy Roman and Anglo-Saxon nobles.

With permission from the landowners, Harper hopes in future there may be an archaeological geophysical survey of the site.

Paul Harper’s new book – Cerdic: Mysterious dark age king who founded England – is being released by Pen & Sword on April 30, 2024. https://www.pen-and-sword.co.uk/CERDIC-Mysterious-Dark-Age-king-who-founded-England-Hardback/p/49849

Sources : Paul Harper – Press Officer at Middlesex University and Author

This content was originally published on www.heritagedaily.com – © 2023 – HeritageDaily

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Archaeology

Study reveals new insights into life at “German Stonehenge”

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Excavations of the Ringheiligtum Pömmelte, nicknamed the “German Stonehenge”, has revealed new insights into domestic life from prehistory.

Ringheiligtum Pömmelte is a late Neolithic/Early Bronze Age henge from the late third millennium BC. The monument features seven concentric rings made of palisades, ditches, and raised banks, each containing a series of wooden posts.

The site was discovered in 1991 through aerial photography near the present-day village of Pömmelte in Saxony-Anhalt, Germany.

From 2018 to 2022, archaeologists have excavated nearly 140 ancient dwellings dating from 2,800 BC to 2,200 BC. The older dwellings are linked to the Corded Ware and the Bell Beaker culture, while the more recent ones are associated with the Únětice Culture.

In a recent study conducted by the State Office for Monument Preservation and Archaeology (LDA) of Saxony-Anhalt, archaeologists are employing various scientific methods to offer new insights into the site’s ritual and settlement landscape.

The study has identified house locations of the Corded Ware culture (26th to 23rd century BC), and an associated settlement pit containing ceramic sherds, an axe head and flint blades. Until now, Corded Ware settlement could only be attributed to individual finds that had been relocated, and not to actual structures on the site.

Also associated with the Corded Ware culture is a storage area with 78 grain silo pits that held various types of gain, including wheat, barley, and spelt. Archaeologists already know that Corded Ware people lived on a balanced diet with animal products, further indicated by drinking vessels from burials at Ringheiligtum Pömmelte that contained traces of dairy products.

While the scientific analyses and the interpretation of the results with various specialists continue, excavations at Pömmelte will last until mid-July 2024.

Header Image Credit : Shutterstock

Sources : State Office for Monument Preservation and Archaeology Saxony-Anhalt

This content was originally published on www.heritagedaily.com – © 2023 – HeritageDaily

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Archaeology

3,400-year-old shipwreck found with cargo mostly intact

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Archaeologists from the Israel Antiquities Authority Marine Unit have discovered a 3,400-year-old shipwreck with the cargo mostly intact.

The site was first identified during an underwater survey by Energean, an energy company searching for natural gas deposits beneath the Mediterranean Sea Floor.

This led to the discovery of the shipwreck and its cargo at a depth of 1.8 kilometers, along with its cargo that consists of Late Bronze Age Canaanite storage vessels.

IAA archaeologists, in collaboration with Energean, have used the deep sea exploratory vessel, “Energean Star” to conduct a visual inspection of the wreck site. This has revealed hundreds of ceramic vessels on the seabed, and a muddy layer which likely conceals a second layer and the wooden beams of the ship.

Jacob Sharvit, Head of the Israel Antiquities Authority Marine Unit, explains, “The ship seems to have sunk in crisis, either due to a storm or to an attempted piracy attack – a well-known occurrence in the Late Bronze Age. This is both the first and the oldest ship found in the Eastern Mediterranean deep sea, ninety kilometres from the nearest shore.”

Image Credit : IAA

Only two other ships from this period have been found – the boat from Cape Gelidonya and the Uluburun boat; both found off the Turkish coast. Both ships were found near the shore, suggesting that shipping routes followed the coastline between ports. However, this new discovery changes the understanding of ancient marine trade, demonstrating that ancient shipping also extended into deep waters.

“The ship is preserved at such a great depth that time has frozen since the moment of disaster – its body and contexts have not been disturbed by human hand (divers, fishermen, etc.); nor affected by waves and currents which do impact shipwrecks in shallower waters,” added Sharvit.

Header Image Credit : IAA

Sources : Israel Antiquities Authority

This content was originally published on www.heritagedaily.com – © 2023 – HeritageDaily

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