Anglo-Saxon Bed Burials And Grandmother’s Featherbed

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Artist’s impression of the Harpole Bed Burial (Image: with permission © MOLA)

Anglo-Saxon Bed Burials And Grandmother’s Featherbed

In April 2022, a ‘once in a lifetime” British archaeological discovery was made of a rare bed burial, accompanied by grave goods, known as the Harpole Treasure. So important and so vital was it to be carefully guarded from theft, that in every hurried phone call and messaging made during those first few days no-one involved even mentioned the word ‘gold’.  Even more dramatic is the fact that this was found at the 11th-hour, on almost the last day of the eight-week dig.  Speed was crucial and the day after the discovery two experts from the Museum of London Archaeology took the train to Northamptonshire to review the finds.  The grave site turned out to be a rare seventh-century bed burial of a woman.  In Old English Harpole means “filthy pool”.   The bed did not survive as wood rarely does well underground unless left in a very damp and soggy place.  Archaeologists recovered only a few metal pieces which had held the bed together, a few vertebrae bones of the skeleton and grave goods, one in particular which was outstanding.  It was a gold necklace, one of the finest Anglo-Saxon jewels to be found in Britain.  The Anglo-Saxons seem to have been just as mesmerised with gold and gold jewellery as almost every other ancient civilisation seem to have been.

The moment of uncovering the Harpole necklace (Image: with permission © MOLA)

The moment of uncovering the Harpole necklace (Image: with permission © MOLA)

Anglo Saxon Bed Burials

Most of the 18 bed burials from Saxon times are women’s graves, found either around Cambridge in East Anglia, or over to the west in Wessex which is modern day Hampshire.  Wessex originally meant ‘West Saxons’.  Both of these were among seven Anglo-Saxon kingdoms which existed by 556.


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