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Skeleton found during archaeological excavation at Lyminge Parish Church

By Alex Jee

An archaeological excavation of one of England's oldest churches is yielding fascinating rewards, including the skeleton of a child.

'Pathways to the Past' started at the beginning of last month, and is based around Lyminge Parish Church of St Mary & St Ethelburga, near Folkestone.

The current church on the site is more than 1,000 years old, however the excavation aims to uncover artefacts dating back as far as the 7th century.

The excavated chancel. Photo: Pathways to the Past (14673263)
The excavated chancel. Photo: Pathways to the Past (14673263)

As the team enters its fourth week of digging, project manager Rob Baldwin says they have made several important findings.

"We have found a silver penny of King Edward I, which was minted around the turn of the 14th century, which tells us at the very least that people were visiting the church around that time," he said.

"We have also found several graves, one of which we hope will belong to Ethelburga herself."

The penny of King Edward I, who's face can be seen here in profile. Photo: Rob Baldwin (14894313)
The penny of King Edward I, who's face can be seen here in profile. Photo: Rob Baldwin (14894313)

Ethelburga was a member of the Kentish royal family.

She is thought to have been born around 605 AD, and married the King of Northumbria in 620, returning to Lyminge following his death.

One of the graves has already yielded a find - the body of a child of unknown gender, aged about eight or nine years old.

The remains of an 8-9 year-old medieval child. Photo: Pathways to the Past (14652556)
The remains of an 8-9 year-old medieval child. Photo: Pathways to the Past (14652556)

Mr Baldwin said: "The body is probably medieval, dating to the period after the Anglo-Saxon church had been demolished, which was probably in the 11th century, and before the current church porch was built in the 16th century."

In a post on the official project blog, he confirmed the body would be reburied in the churchyard in due course, in a plot away from the path so that the grave will no longer be walked over.

Mr Baldwin is relishing the challenge of not only excavating the area and making as many findings as possible, but also putting in disabled access for the church at the end of the project.

University of Reading PhD student Lisa Backhouse, and undergraduates Zoe Wiacek and Emily Gibson working on the remains. Photo: Pathways to the Past (14652558)
University of Reading PhD student Lisa Backhouse, and undergraduates Zoe Wiacek and Emily Gibson working on the remains. Photo: Pathways to the Past (14652558)

"We are also aiming to create step-free access to allow for disabled visitors to the church.

"The dig will be going until August 31, before being covered up for that purpose.

"This makes it a truly once in a lifetime opportunity."

Visitors can go on tours of the dig... whatever the weather. Photo: Pathways to the Past (14673266)
Visitors can go on tours of the dig... whatever the weather. Photo: Pathways to the Past (14673266)

The project has received enough backing to get started, but leaders are looking for more funding to complete all of their objectives.

To donate, visit here.

Read more: All the latest news from Folkestone

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