Anglo-Saxon skeletons found in Suffolk dig

Anglo-Saxon skeletons in double grave Image copyright Archaeological Solutions
Image caption Two of the 21 skeletons were found together in a double grave

Graves containing 21 Anglo-Saxon skeletons and jewellery which belonged to "high status" owners have been uncovered in Suffolk.

The bones, said to be in pristine condition, were found on land earmarked for development at Exning.

Andrew Peachey, from Archaeological Solutions, said the finds were "totally unexpected" as initial searches had not indicated a burial ground.

The skeletons, dating from about AD650, have yet to be properly examined.

The 20 graves, one of which was a double burial, were uncovered in the last two weeks.

Image copyright Archaeological Solutions
Image caption The bones were said to be in "pristine condition"
Image copyright Archaeological Solutions
Image caption The skeletons are being cleaned and sent for analysis

Mr Peachey, contracted to survey the area by Persimmon Homes, said the skeletons included those of four or five adolescents, but it was too early to say more about the ages of the bodies.

'Royal connections'

"One burial was very intricate with a wooden or iron frame possibly underneath the body. It may be what's known as a bed burial, but again it's too early to tell until everything is cleaned up properly," he said.

"Another appears to be a warrior burial. A spearhead and dagger were found with the bones."

Image copyright Archaeological Solutions
Image caption A copper alloy pin and chain could have been used as a fastening for a cloak, Mr Peachey said
Image copyright Archaeological Solutions
Image caption A spearhead was found in what is believed to be the grave of an Anglo-Saxon warrior

Most of the skeletons were found with grave goods including a glass bowl, brooches and other items of gold-plated and copper jewellery.

The quality of the items indicated the bodies may have had "royal connections" as the area had close links with King Anna, who ruled East Anglia the 7th Century, Mr Peachey said.

Image copyright Archaeological Solutions
Image caption Archaeologists said it was too early to determine the ages of the skeletons
Image copyright Archaeological Solutions
Image caption A glass bowl, possibly from the Rhineland, was one of the uncovered treasures

The graves were uncovered about 30cm (12in) from the surface of land which has been used for agricultural purposes for centuries.

"It is incredible that there was absolutely no disturbance caused to the graves, when you think ploughs must have just about been skimming across them," Mr Peachey said.

The "excellent preservation" of both the skeletons and grave goods meant the finds were of "high analytical value", he said.

The bones and other items are currently being prepared and sent away for analysis. Mr Peachey said it could be "weeks or months" before more was known about the likely history of the people buried there.

It has not yet been determined whether the skeletons will eventually be housed in a museum in Suffolk but a number of Exning residents said they would like to see them on permanent display in the village.

The items of jewellery will be assessed by the Portable Antiquities Scheme to determine whether any of them are considered to be "treasure trove" in which case they would be kept for the nation.

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