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Piecing together the Anglo Saxon jigsaw

A Saxon King bodyguard at Canterbury Castle Norman Living history day. Picture: BARRY DUFFIELD
A Saxon King bodyguard at Canterbury Castle Norman Living history day. Picture: BARRY DUFFIELD

IT WAS custom for people to be buried fully clothed during the late 5th and early 6th century.

That is why archaeologists believe the unearthed Anglo Saxon graves in a farmer's field in Ringlemere, Sandwich, were probably all women after the discovery of beads and brooches.

Saxon men were often buried with their belts - even their weapons when it was fashionable to do so. That was of course after they killed off the locals and sent the rest of their men from Denmark.

What is fascinating to Keith Parfitt, co-director of excavations at the Canterbury Archaeological trust, whose team unearthed the 58 graves is that how did the great Roman civilisation get wiped out and get replaced with this fiery lot?

With poor records to date - these excavations are important in discovering whether the myths surrounding these early folk down the ages are true.

Mr Parfitt said: "These excavations are exciting to pull out the myth and to see if there is any grain of truth about the Saxon people themselves and how they came across to England. There is the myth around characters Horsa and Hengeist, who led three ship loads of men to coastal areas of Kent to work for the locals as merchant soldiers. But then they fought with the locals and killed them off and sent for others from Denmark to the superland.

"Now we have cutting edge technology to find out stuff. It's like a jigsaw puzzle which slowly emerges."

Scientists at the British Museum are analysing the jewellery found from the graves as well as bones and teeth, the results of which Mr Parfitt hopes will be released next year.

"They will be able to show the type of minerals that have been absorbed in the teeth," Mr Parfitt added.

"For example, in Ringlemere, they hope to find what sort of water they were drinking whether it was water they got from Denmark or East Kent.

"We have finds coming up in Kent all over the time. We hope in the future to be able to look at the people from Ashford and Ringlemere to see if there is any similarities or differences.

"What makes these excavations so special is that it relates to the early colonisation of Britain, which is rare.

"In 400ad we had the Romans settlement but by 500ad it disappeared and all the cities collapsed. Road systems were over grown and the new market economy was completely gone within 100 years before the Saxons took over. From a great civilisation to the Saxons who had a different way of working and lifestyle is an interesting set of events."

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