Treasures of Sittingbourne

In May 2008, construction of a mixed retail-residential development called “The Meads” commenced in an area known to have been scraped clear by Victorian brick-clay diggers. It was believed that any artifacts or graves would have been found then, 100+ years ago despite aerial photography in 1982 that showed evidence of large ring ditches on the site. A watching brief was placed on the construction site by the Canterbury Archaeological Trust. Not only were prehistoric rings discovered, but a major Anglo-Saxon cemetery dating from the mid-6th to the late 7th century.

Prehistoric ring ditch

Prehistoric ring ditch

Archaeologists and volunteers from surrounding communities, working with the Canterbury Archaeological Trust and Sittingbourne Heritage Museum discovered hundreds of Anglo-Saxon graves and thousands of relics (e.g., jewelry, buckles, garnet brooches, sword mounts, pots, jars, glass drinking horns) reminiscent of the Staffordshire Hoard.

Glass drinking horns from Grave 184

Glass drinking horns from Grave 184

After two years of excavation, work on The Meads site ended in 2011 due to a lack of funds. Many finds were left embedded in soil blocks and others will be moved to storage for future examination.

  1. Town’s past recovered from graves“, BBC News, 2009-09-16
  2. How Sittingbourne discovered an archaeological treasure trove“, The Guardian, 2010-08-15
  3. CSI Sittingbourne archaeology project closes“, BBC News, Kent, 2011-09-22
  4. Saxon Sittingbourne“, Sittingbourne Heritage Museum
  5. A Prehistoric and Anglo-Saxon Cemetery at the Meads, Sittingbourne“, Canterbury Archaeological Trust
  6. Sittingbourne Excavation“, Flickr

Queen Eadgyth

The bones of Queen Eadgyth, wife of the Holy Roman Emperor Otto I, were discovered in the Madgeburg Cathedral in 2008. Her bones were wrapped in expensive silk, placed in a lead coffin, which in turn was enclosed in a stone sarcophagus. Experts believed that the sarcophagus was likely empty before it was opened.

Queen Eadgyth's Sarcophagus, Madgeburg Cathedral

Queen Eadgyth’s Sarcophagus, Madgeburg Cathedral

Eadgyth was the daughter Eadweard the Elder and granddaughter of Alfred the Great. She was sent to Germany when she was 19 in the hopes of building political relations. Descendants of Eadgyth and Otto ruled Germany until 1254, and remain progenitors to many of Europe’s royal families today.

The interior lead coffin bore Queen Eadgyth’s name and mention of the content’s transfer from a monastery in 1510.


Lead coffin of Eadgyth

Lead coffin of Eadgyth

In addition to Eadgyth’s remains, an infestation of beetles were also found that date to the transfer. Testing on the 40 remaining bones and fragments (hands, feets, and some skull were missing) at Bristol University revealed that the interred was born and raised in the chalky uplands of Wessex at the end of the 10th century. Testing at the University of Mainz confirmed she was female and died between 30 and 40 years or age. She enjoyed a high-protein diet and evidence from a femur suggested she was an avid horse-rider. Despite efforts to do so, DNA could not be extracted from the remains. In 2010, she was re-interred at Madgeburg Cathedral in a titanium coffin (designed by Leipzig sculptor Kornelia Thümmel) during an ecumenical ceremony.

  1. Editha-Sarg: DNA-Analyse soll Rätsel um Königin lösen“, Spiegel Online, Wissenschaft, 2009-01-29
  2. Saxon queen discovered in Germany“, University of Bristol, 2010-01-20
  3. Tomb of the Saxon Queen: Discovered, Alfred’s granddaughter“, Mail Online, 2010-01-21
  4. Remains of first king of England’s sister found in German cathedral“, The Guardian, 2010-06-16
  5. Bones confirmed as those of Saxon Princess Eadgyth“, University of Bristol, 2010-06-17
  6. Gemahlin von Otto dem Großen: Königin Editha im Magdeburger Dom bestattet“, Spiegel Online, Wissenschaft, 2010-10-22
  7. Queen Eadgyth laid to rest. Again.“, The History Blog, 2010-10-24
  8. Eadgyth“, Wikipedia

Street House Cemetery

A mid 7th century cemetery was discovered near Loftus when an Iron Age rectangular enclosure was detected using aerial photography. Excavations from 2005 to 2007, discovered over 100 graves, jewelry, and other relics.

Loftus Cemetery

Plan of cemetery, bed burial and grubenhaus marked

Most notably, the grave of a high status woman was found. She had received a bed burial (more common in the South) and was covered in a small earthen mound.

Saxon Princess Kirkleatham

Replica of bed burial at Kirkleatham Museum

The layout and relics found within the cemetery point to the Conversion Period. Finds from the cemetery were acquired by the Kirkleatham Museum in Redcar.

  1. Gold found in Anglo-Saxon cemetery“, 20 Nov 2007, The Echo
  2. A seventh-century royal cemetery at Street House, north-east Yorkshire, England“, Jun 2008, Antiquity
  3. Street House Anglo-Saxon cemetery“, Wikipedia