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When Religions Collide. Grave Discovered Showing Cross Over Between Paganism and Christianity

An Anglo-Saxon grave discovered at Trumpington Meadows close to Cambridge, has unearthed signs of a cross-over between Paganism and Christianity. The discovery is extremely rare and could be one of the earliest cross-over burials in the UK.

The beautiful little village of Trumpington, Cambridgeshire

The skeleton was discovered by the Cambridge Archaeological Unit, led by Alison Dickens.

The grave is thought to date from the mid-7th century when Christianity was only just beginning to be accepted by the previously Pagan Anglo-Saxon kings.  The skeleton is that of a teenage girl estimated to be about 16 years old, and was buried on a wooden bed held together by metal brackets, and adorned with a gold and garnet cross on her chest.  This cross is one of only five of its type to have been discovered across the UK and the “bed” is one of just 12 to have been unearthed across the UK which makes the whole package an extremely rare find.  The cross was about one and a half inches and was in all likelihood actually sewn into the girl’s clothing, although, over time, this clothing had obviously disintegrated.

Apart from the bed and the cross, the girl had been buried with a bag of precious and semi-precious stones and a small knife, amongst other things, but one of the most exciting things about the cross was that it was, without doubt, comparable to the royal Anglo-Saxon hoard which had been discovered at the famous site at Sutton Hoo, a short way down in the road in the neighbouring county of Suffolk. 

One of the masks discovered at the Sutton Hoo Burial Site, Suffolk.  It’s amazing to think that this was worn by a Anglo Saxon hundreds of years ago.

This comparison between the Trumpington find and the Sutton Hoo site means that the girl was probably of significant import in the Anglo-Saxon community and Dr Sam Lucy, a specialist in Anglo-Saxon burials from Newnham College in Cambridge suggested that this young girl was probably of noble or maybe even royal birth.

Dr Lucy added that these religious conversions began at the top end of the hierarchy and, over time, slowly filtered down to the lower end of the market.  She went on to comment that the idea of burying a body with grave goods to equip the deceased for the afterlife, was contrary to Christian beliefs but was a hangover from Pagan beliefs which instantly seems to point to a cross-over religious ceremony.

Apart from this girl, three other skeletons, that appeared to have undergone a more traditional Pagan burial, were also found, and the Archaeological Unit is now planning to analyse all skeletons as well as the artefacts to try and determine whether there was any correlation between the burials.

East Anglia of which my home county of Norfolk is part (and from whence brave Queen Boudicca hailed!) as well as Cambridgeshire and Suffolk mentioned above, is one of the best known areas for Anglo-Saxon discoveries so I’m eagerly awaiting further info on exactly what these researchers come up with. 

Having a keen interest in history, I feel I’m so blessed to live in such a wonderful part of the country with its roots deeply planted in history and, over the years so many things have been unearthed close to my home.  You can be sure that if I do find out a bit more about this significant discovery, however, you, my friends, will be the first to know!!

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