A vast Anglo-Saxon burial site containing 138 graves has been unearthed by archaeologists working on the HS2 cross-country rail route under construction across the UK. The site, near Wendover in Buckinghamshire, contains the remains of more than 140 people, some of which were buried with jewellery, knives and a personal grooming kit. “It is one of the best and most revealing post-Roman sites in the country,” says the historian Dan Snow.
“The site contained 141 inhumation burials and five cremation burials; [this is] one of the largest Anglo-Saxon burial grounds ever uncovered in Britain,” according to a statement on the HS2 website. “It’s quite rare to find an Anglo-Saxon cemetery,” says Rachel Wood, the lead archaeologist for Fusion JV, the company that carried out the fieldwork.
She adds: “Almost all of the individuals were buried with brooches, and they’re fantastically decorated. We’ve also had swords, spear heads, decorated pottery—a lot of unique objects. It’s certainly a once-in-a-lifetime discovery for an archaeologist. There are men, women and children, and there are a lot of them—the most interesting for me is that they are so close to the end of the Roman period. The fifth and sixth centuries are not ones we know a lot about.”
The dig has so far yielded 2,000 beads, 89 brooches and 40 buckles along with personal grooming items such as ear wax removers and tweezers. “Many of the burials were found with two brooches on their collarbone, indicating that they would have been holding up garments such as a cloak, or a peplos, a long garment worn by women with shoulder brooches,” adds the HS2 statement.
The HS2 project has yielded numerous archaeological finds since work began on the new transport artery in 2020. In January, a vast Roman trading settlement was found at a site in south Northamptonshire. According to the BBC, the Iron Age village discovered consisted of 30 roundhouses, established around 400BC, that developed into a Roman trading town.
“Before we build bridges, tunnels, tracks and stations, the largest archaeology programme ever undertaken in the UK is taking place along the line of route,” according to a statement on the HS2 website, which provides details of other ancient sites discovered along the 170-mile route between London and the north-west . The project has faced opposition from pressure groups however such as Stop HS2 who say that work on the route is damaging areas of natural beauty.