1,300-year-old necklace among treasures discovered at the site of a housing estate

Archaeologists say the necklace is the richest of its kind ever discovered

A 1,300-year-old necklace discovered on the site of a new housing estate was buried in the grave of a woman who may have been royalty or a powerful Christian leader, archaeologists said.

The centuries-old treasure was found during excavations in April before construction began on a new housing development in Northamptonshire.

Experts from the Museum of London Archeology (MOLA) announced on Tuesday that the necklace dates to AD 630-670, during the Saxon period, and is part of a high-ranking female burial within the Kingdom of Mercia.

The museum said experts believe the tomb, which also contained other treasures, is the most significant early medieval female burial ever discovered in Britain.

He also said the necklace is the richest of its type ever discovered, with at least 30 charms and beads made from Roman coins, gold, garnets, glass and semi-precious stones.

MOLA site supervisor Levente-Bence Balazs, who led a team that made the discovery, said: ‘When the first glints of gold started to emerge from the ground, we knew it was something significant.

“However, we didn’t realize how special it would be. We are fortunate to be able to use modern methods of analysis on the finds and surrounding burial to gain much deeper insight into this person’s life and last rites.”

The collection of treasures in the burial, dubbed “Harpole’s Treasure” after the local parish, includes two decorated vessels and a shallow copper plate.

The team also found that a large and elaborately decorated cross, with very unusual depictions of human faces cast in silver, had been placed in the tomb.

Experts say that while the skeleton itself has decomposed, the combination of items suggests the grave belonged to that of a pious high-ranking woman such as an abbess or royalty, or even both.

MOLA said her team is now working to examine and preserve the items, including identifying and recording traces of organic remains within the burial and on the surface of the artifacts.

Simon Mortimer, a consultant archaeologist for RPS who is working with property developer Vistry Group, said: ‘This find is truly a once-in-a-lifetime find – the sort of thing you read about in textbooks and not something you expect to see. come out of the ground in front of you”.

Mr Mortimer said the find shows “the fundamental value” of housing developers funding archeology.

“The planned development of Vistry has provided a unique opportunity to investigate this site,” he said. “If they hadn’t funded this work, this remarkable burial may never have been found.”

Vistry West Midlands regional technical director Daniel Oliver said the developer had waived any rights to “artifacts of international significance”.

Liz Mordue, archaeological adviser to West Northamptonshire Council, concluded: ‘This is an exciting find which will shed a lot of light on the significance of Northamptonshire in the Saxon period.

“It also serves as a reminder of the importance of archeology in the planning and development process.”

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