Critical Discovery: 60+ Early Medieval Graves Found Beneath Cambridge University Buildings

It was announced today that “one of the most exciting finds of Anglo-Saxon archaeology since the 19th century” had been unearthed. Found at Cambridge University’s King’s College, the archeological site was discovered during renovations for new student halls. Archeologists have dated approximately 200 items recovered from more than 60 graves to the c.5th to mid-7th centuries. However, monuments dated even earlier (iron age & Roman age) are among the collection.

The find was a surprise because of the accounts from the foundational work in Western history, Bede’s 8th century Ecclesiastical History said in the 5th century, numerous Roman settlements were abandoned, Cambridge included. This cemetery opens a door into the otherwise lost past about what really happened during and after the 5th century exile. While this site is just beginning to be explored, the information extracted from it is already fascinating.

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Bead necklaces, bronze brooches, glass flasks, pottery, short blades, swords, and other unnamed objects have so far been retrieved from the cemetery. Due to the excellent condition in which the human remains were found, and to the advances in modern scientific techniques, the archeologists will be able to extract a wealth of information from the bodies. As of right now, the evidence appears to indicate that these people had diverted from Roman agricultural, dietary, and fashion customs.

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“It would be great to say very clearly – and we’re going to need an ample suite of carbon-14 dates to do this – that we’ve got people using this site from the fifth until the seventh century.”
Dr. Caroline Goodson (2021)[1]

The number of cemeteries like this one that have had the chance to use modern methods of scientific excavation and explanation are incredibly low in number.

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One point of interest is prominent for the current issue of Covid-19. This cemetery might contain information about the Justinian plague of 540 CE and in turn would help further establish the history of pandemics.

For all the reasons listed above, this massive find might just be the most important discovery of the year for Anglo-Saxon history, if not all of Western history. It is only the first month of 2021, so I’m eager to see what will be discovered next.

Photographer: Albion Archeology. This is a photo of one of the skeletons found in the graveyard.
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Given the magnitude of the news here, I wanted to share to share the story which I thought was the most interesting from this time last year. A year ago from next week, Eliseo Gil was facing prison over accusations of hoaxing the earliest known image of Jesus Christ’s crucifixion. In June last year, the verdict had been made. I think it is crucial to be aware that some people can and do tamper with evidence. Regardless of that, I hope responsible individuals will be in charge of this excavation and I’ll be keeping an eye out for more news on this medieval graveyard.

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References:

[1] – https://www.theguardian.com/science/2021/jan/30/find-of-the-century-medieval-hoard-of-treasures-unearthed-in-cambridge. Accessed 30 Jan. 2021.

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