Sunday, October 19, 2008
Treasure Trove in Teeside!
This may be a recap of some earlier posts here: Rare finds unearth Teesside link with royalty Oct 14 2008 by Karen Faughey, Evening Gazette RARE Anglo Saxon jewellery worth an estimated £250,000 has revealed a fascinating link between East Cleveland and the royal family of 1,400 years ago. Exciting archeological finds dating back to the seventh century have been ruled to be treasure during five separate inquests at Teesside Coroners’ Court. Experts have described the finds as ‘unparallel in the North East’ after historians discovered 109 graves near Loftus from around 650AD - one of which is thought to have contained the body of a princess. Though the acidity in the soil means the remains no longer exist, dozens of high status items have stood the test of time including brooches, pendants, glass beads, pottery, and coins dating as far back as 43AD. Archaeologist Stephen Sherlock said: "This is a site of national significance. Regionally it is the most significant assemblage of material relating to the Northumbrian royal family. "Any one of these pieces would be the best in the North East, and it was completely unexpected to find something like this in Loftus when Bede says the royal family was in Northumbria." Excavations began secretly in 2005 on farmland at Street House Farm, south-east of Loftus, after aerial photographs from the previous year revealed evidence of Iron Age houses. But as 30 volunteers began the painstaking procedure of unearthing the 1,200sqm site, no-one could have predicted that what lay beneath was an undisturbed Anglo Saxon burial ground. Mr Sherlock, 54, who grew up in Redcar, but now lives in York, described the initial moment of discovery as one of ‘disbelief". "I’ve dug an Anglo Saxon cemetery before (at Norton) and I thought that was a once in a lifetime scoop," he said. "I never expected to find anything like this." The dig then re-commenced in 2006 and 2007 during the months of August and September in between the farmer harvesting and re-seeding his crops. Fragments of iron found in one of the graves revealed that one of the deceased had been buried on a bed - a ritual then only reserved for people of very high status. The fact that this person had been wearing some of the dig’s most ‘exceptional’ pieces of jewellery has led experts to the conclusion that she may have in fact been an Anglo Saxon princess. Mr Sherlock, a self employed archaeologist who spends most of the year out on development jobs, highlighted an impressive shield-shaped brooch found in this grave as his personal favourite. "It’s not because it’s pretty," he said. "It’s because it’s unique. It symbolises somebody who had the clout to commission it and get it made. "Whoever made that was the best craftsman of their time. It would be like going to the queen’s jeweler today." During the inquest, he explained how such an item would not have been available commercially, and instead would have to have been commissioned. It is thought that the other people buried in the graveyard may have been lesser members of the same royal family. The finds will now be taken before an independent panel of experts made up of academics, dealers and curators who will value the pieces based on market value, collectibility and previous sales. Kirkleatham Museum in Redcar, which wishes to buy the pieces, will then have three months to come up with the money - 50% of which will go to the landowner Alan Bothroyd, of nearby Upton Cottages. Items are only referred to as treasure when the owner of an archaeological find cannot be traced. The items must be at least 300-years-old and have a metallic content of more than 10% precious metal. Some of the lesser important items found at Street House Farm, such as a piece of a Jet hairslide and pottery, were yesterday ruled as treasure by association. Finds liaison officer at the department of Antiquities in Newcastle Doctor Rob Collins said: "This is highly significant for the region. Although we known the names of many kings, queens, princes and princesses, we don’t really have any burial sites. "And what we are seeing here is most likely a member of the royal family - if not a king or queen then someone who is very close to them." Despite being able to date the items found, it is not known where any of the jewellery or beads would have come from. Dr Collins said: "The style of some of the jewellery suggests if not a southern origin, then a southern influence. "It could have been made by a southern craftsman from Kent who was working in the north. It could be that the woman in the bed burial had brought the jewellery north. It could also be that they were wedding gifts. "In that period there was a lot of excessive trade all around the North Sea." According to experts, Anglo Saxon burials are rare in England, but the majority that have been found are in Suffolk, Oxfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Wiltshire. Teesside coroner Michael Sheffield said: "These finds are unusual and rare because there are so many items involved and they reflect the status of the people in the graves where they were found."