Anglo-Saxon bling! The women who were buried 1,600 years ago with priceless accessories

Plague, famine and extreme poverty was not enough to stop women living in Britain during the Dark Ages caring about their appearance.

Sixth-century women took pride in their looks and a freshly-discovered Anglo-Saxon cemetery shows they were buried alongside their beloved beauty accessories. 

An archaeological dig revealed tweezers, handbags, ivory accessories, amber necklaces and ornate brooches.

Experts say the women were surrounded with a ‘rich-array’ of goods and one woman was even dressed in fine garments while still cradling her baby. 

Male remains found at the same site were buried with weaponry such as spears and shields.

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Sixth-century women took pride in their looks and a freshly-discovered Anglo-Saxon cemetery shows they were buried alongside their beloved beauty accessories. An archaeological dig revealed a plethora of items buried alongside the skeletons 

Sixth-century women took pride in their looks and a freshly-discovered Anglo-Saxon cemetery shows they were buried alongside their beloved beauty accessories. An archaeological dig revealed a plethora of items buried alongside the skeletons 

Sixth-century women took pride in their looks and a freshly-discovered Anglo-Saxon cemetery shows they were buried alongside their beloved beauty accessories. An archaeological dig revealed a plethora of items buried alongside the skeletons 

An archaeological dig revealed tweezers, handbags, ivory accessories, amber necklaces and ornate brooches next to the Anglo-Saxon women 

An archaeological dig revealed tweezers, handbags, ivory accessories, amber necklaces and ornate brooches next to the Anglo-Saxon women 

An archaeological dig revealed tweezers, handbags, ivory accessories, amber necklaces and ornate brooches next to the Anglo-Saxon women 

Hugh Willmott, senior lecturer in European Historical Archaeology at the University of Sheffield, said: ‘Almost without exception, the burials were accompanied by a rich array of objects, in keeping with the funerary rites adopted during the early centuries of the Germanic migrations to eastern England.

‘What is particularly interesting is the significant proportion of very lavish burials which belonged to women.

‘These women wore necklaces made from sometimes hundreds of amber, glass and rock crystal beads, used personal items such as tweezers, carried fabric bags held open by elephant ivory rings, and wore exquisitely decorated brooches to fasten their clothing.’ 

Excavations have revealed more than 20 burials at the cemetery in the town of Scremby hidden in the Lincolnshire Wolds.  

The cemetery was discovered when a local metal detectorist began to uncover a number of Anglo-Saxon artefacts, including copper gilded brooches, iron shield bosses and spear heads typical of those found in early Anglo-Saxon burials.

International volunteers, students from the Sheffield University, and members of the RAF from nearby stations took part in the excavation, which is the first to have been extensively investigated since the 19th century. 

Experts say the women were surrounded with a 'rich-array' of goods and one woman was even dressed in fine garments while still cradling her baby

Experts say the women were surrounded with a 'rich-array' of goods and one woman was even dressed in fine garments while still cradling her baby

International volunteers, students from the Sheffield University, and members of the RAF from nearby stations took part in the excavation, which is the first to have been extensively investigated since the 19th century

International volunteers, students from the Sheffield University, and members of the RAF from nearby stations took part in the excavation, which is the first to have been extensively investigated since the 19th century

The cemetery was discovered when a local metal detectorist began to uncover a number of Anglo-Saxon artefacts, including copper gilded brooches, iron shield bosses and spear heads typical of those found in early Anglo-Saxon burials

Male remains found at the same site were buried with weaponry such as spears and shields but 'Children were notably absent in the parts of the cemetery excavated this year'

Male remains found at the same site were buried with weaponry such as spears and shields but 'Children were notably absent in the parts of the cemetery excavated this year'

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Male remains found at the same site were buried with weaponry such as spears and shields but ‘Children were notably absent in the parts of the cemetery excavated this year’

WHO WERE THE ANGLO-SAXONS?  

Historically, the Anglo-Saxon period denotes the period in Britain between about 450 and 1066.

Society was enduring what became to be known as the ‘Dark Ages’ and Britain was inhabited with descendants of Germanic tribes who migrated to the British Isles in the fifth century AD. 

The Anglo-Saxon way of live evolved as communities adopted different aspects of the language and culture. 

It endured until 1066 when the successful invasion and the famed battle of Hastings saw William the Conqueror sail the English Channel and successfully displace Harold and took his place upon the throne. 

This period of time saw the growing popularity of Christianity, the implementation of parishes and counties – many of which are still used today.

Dr Willmott said: ‘Children were notably absent in the parts of the cemetery excavated this year; however, one of the most striking burials was that of a richly-dressed woman who was buried with a baby cradled in her left arm.

‘The preservation of the skeletal remains, as well as the many grave finds, provide an exciting opportunity to explore the social and cultural dynamics of the community who chose to bury their dead on this chalky outcrop.’

Investigations into the remains are continuing, including stable isotope analysis of teeth and bone which will identify where the individuals grew up as children and what food they ate. 

An archaeologist said: 'One of the most striking burials was that of a richly-dressed woman who was buried with a baby cradled in her left arm'

An archaeologist said: 'One of the most striking burials was that of a richly-dressed woman who was buried with a baby cradled in her left arm'

An archaeologist said: ‘One of the most striking burials was that of a richly-dressed woman who was buried with a baby cradled in her left arm’

Investigations into the remains are continuing, including stable isotope analysis of teeth and bone which will identify where the individuals grew up as children and what food they ate 

Investigations into the remains are continuing, including stable isotope analysis of teeth and bone which will identify where the individuals grew up as children and what food they ate 

Investigations into the remains are continuing, including stable isotope analysis of teeth and bone which will identify where the individuals grew up as children and what food they ate 

Dr Hemer, lecturer in bioarchaeology, said: ‘Analysis also extends to a number of the finds, including the amber beads, which are being provenanced in collaboration with colleagues from Sheffield’s Department of Physics.

‘We will analyse the elemental composition of the metalwork and identify the elephant species which produced the ivory rings.

The project’s multi-faceted investigation, which incorporates cutting-edge scientific techniques, will enable The excavation will feature on Digging For Britain on BBC Four at 9pm on Wednesday.

Excavations have revealed more than 20 burials at the cemetery in the town of Scremby hidden in the Lincolnshire Wolds

Excavations have revealed more than 20 burials at the cemetery in the town of Scremby hidden in the Lincolnshire Wolds

Excavations have revealed more than 20 burials at the cemetery in the town of Scremby hidden in the Lincolnshire Wolds

The project's multi-faceted investigation, which incorporates cutting-edge scientific techniques, will enable The excavation will feature on Digging For Britain on BBC Four at 9pm on Wednesday

The project's multi-faceted investigation, which incorporates cutting-edge scientific techniques, will enable The excavation will feature on Digging For Britain on BBC Four at 9pm on Wednesday

The project’s multi-faceted investigation, which incorporates cutting-edge scientific techniques, will enable The excavation will feature on Digging For Britain on BBC Four at 9pm on Wednesday

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