A team of archaeologists from Museum of London Archaeology have uncovered the largest Anglo-Saxon cemetery ever found in Northamptonshire while working on a Barratt and David Wilson Homes development at Overstone Gate. Over the course of 12 months, the team undertook detailed excavation and recording across a 15 hectare site, uncovering a spectacular array of archaeology that spanned some 4000 years.
Rich Anglo Saxon burials
In total, 154 Anglo-Saxon burials were located and excavated, containing a beautiful array of grave goods amounting to over 3000 individual artefacts. These included jewellery (roughly 150 brooches, 15 rings, 2000 beads, 75 wrist clasps and 15 chatelaines), weapons (25 spears, 40 knives and 15 shield bosses), and other more everyday objects such as cosmetic kits and bone combs.
Pieces of textile, which rarely survive in the archaeological record, were found preserved next to metal objects which had caused them to mineralise. All of the finds have now been removed from site for analysis by specialists.
Anglo Saxon Settlement and Bronze Age Barrows
A previously unknown Anglo-Saxon settlement of 22 structures was also identified, with 20 more Anglo-Saxon buildings found scattered around the site. Prehistoric evidence included three Bronze Age round barrows, 46 prehistoric burials, and four Bronze Age buildings.
Simon Markus, Project Manager at MOLA, said:
“The Overstone Leys site contains by far the biggest Anglo-Saxon cemetery ever found in Northamptonshire. It is rare to find both an Anglo-Saxon settlement and a cemetery in a single excavation. The excavations will help us understand the way people lived in both the Anglo-Saxon period, around 1,500 years ago as well as the Bronze Age, nearly 4,000 years ago. The human remains will tell us about diet, health and even the origins of the people themselves whilst their buildings can teach us what their day-to-day lives were like and how they utilised the local landscape in these two different periods.”
John Dillion, Managing Director at Barratt and David Wilson Homes South Midlands, said:
“We’re blown away by the findings at our site in Overstone and have enjoyed learning more about what the land was previously used for. It is amazing to think that people have been building homes on this site for around 4,000 years, and we hope to continue this long-standing tradition with our new and already flourishing community.”
Simon Mortimer, Archaeological Consultant at RPS Group, said:
“The true impact of developer funding for archaeological work is never more apparent than on sites like these. These are ‘once a lifetime discoveries’ for the archaeologists on site and none of this was known about before we started on site. This is huge advance in our understanding of two key periods in the history of Northamptonshire – the Bronze Age and the Saxon periods and there is a unique story to tell which links populations across 3000 years.”
Excavations at Overstone Gate were fully funded by Barratt and David Wilson Homes. MOLA was appointed and supported in its work by the scheme’s heritage consultants, RPS Group.