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Remarkable remains of Anglo Saxon woman and jewels found in grounds of Canterbury Christ Church University

The remarkable remains of a young Anglo-Saxon woman, buried with lavish jewels and a knife, have been discovered on a university campus in Canterbury.

They were unearthed by archaeologists working in the grounds of Christ Church University at the site of its new £65 million STEM building, which is due to open in September next year.

The skeleton of the Anglo Saxon woman (21999128)
The skeleton of the Anglo Saxon woman (21999128)

The woman, believed to have been in her twenties, was found buried with a silver, garnet-inlaid, Kentish disc brooch.

She was also wearing a necklace of amber and glass beads, a belt fastened with a copper alloy buckle, a copper alloy bracelet and was equipped with an iron knife.

Experts say that together, the items found in the grave suggest the woman was buried between AD 580-600.

They believe she would have been a contemporary, and likely acquaintance, of the Kentish King Ethelbert and his Frankish Queen Bertha, whose modern statues can be seen nearby at Lady Wootton’s Green.

The bones have been studied by Dr Ellie Williams, Lecturer in Archaeology at the University.

The stunning broach found with her (21999131)
The stunning broach found with her (21999131)

"The discovery of another ancient burial on our campus is extremely exciting," she said.

"It demonstrates the richness of the archaeology that surrounds us, and contributes important new evidence to our understanding of life and death in Canterbury around 1,400 years ago."

Dr Andrew Richardson, outreach and archives manager at the Canterbury Archaelogical Trust, which made the discovery, says the discovery is "particularly significant".;

"It suggests that relatively high-status burial was taking place on the site in the years shortly before the establishment of the Abbey.

"One of the primary roles of the Abbey was as the burial place of Augustine and his companions, Archbishops and members of the Kentish royal dynasty.

Cremation urns were also discovered (21999133)
Cremation urns were also discovered (21999133)

"This find suggests that this may represent a continuance of existing practice at the site, rather than a completely new development and has implications for our interpretation of this World Heritage site.”

Scientific testing on similar finds has shown the garnets are likely to have come from Sri Lanka rather than a nearer source.

Such brooches, crafted in east Kent from exotic materials, were produced at the behest of the Kentish royal dynasty and distributed as gifts to those in their favour.

The woman’s bones will be retained for further scientific study, which it is hoped will provide insight into her life, death and burial.

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