Friday, June 29, 2012
Cow and Woman in High Status Anglo Saxon Dig
This is an oddity and provides excellent insight into the culture of the late fifth century. Of course we do have ample Roman sources to help understand the milieu. Again it is noteworthy that this high status person is a women which conforms to our knowledge of local traditions of northern Europe and even the Mediterranean.
The burial of a cow is so far unique which jumps this dig to the top of the list.
In the meantime it tells of a surprisingly rich culture that was certainly anchored around animal husbandry.
Cow and woman found in Cambridgeshire Anglo-Saxon dig
Archaeologists described the find as "unique in Europe"
Archaeologists excavating an Anglo-Saxon cemetery in Cambridgeshire say the discovery of a woman buried with a cow is a "genuinely bizarre" find.
25 June 2012 Last updated at 09:10 ET
The grave was uncovered in Oakington by students from Manchester Metropolitan University and the University of Central Lancashire.
At first it was thought the animal skeleton was a horse.
Student Jake Nuttall said: "Male warriors might be buried with horses, but a woman and a cow is new to us."
He added: "We were excited when we thought we had a horse, but realising it was a cow made it even more bizarre."
Co-director of the excavation, Dr Duncan Sayer, from the University of Central Lancashire, said: "Animal burials are extremely rare, anyway.
Grave goods including brooches indicated the woman was of high status
"There are only 31 horse burials in Britain and they are all with men.
"This is the first animal to be discovered with a woman from this period - the late 5th Century - and it's really interesting that it's a cow, a symbol of economic and domestic wealth and power.
"It's also incredibly early to find any grave of a woman buried with such obvious wealth."
The skeleton was found with grave goods including brooches and hundreds of amber and decorated glass beads.
"She also had a complete chatelaine [keychain] set, which is an iron girdle and a symbol of her high status," Dr Sayer said.
"It indicates she had access to the community's wealth.
"She is almost certainly a regional elite - a matriarchal figure buried with the objects that describe her identity to the people who attended her funeral."
Joint director Dr Faye Simpson, from Manchester Metropolitan, said: "A cow is a big thing to give up.
"It's a source of food and something that would have been very expensive to keep, so to sacrifice it would be a big decision.
"They would have wanted to give her something really important to show respect and they wouldn't have done that for just anybody.
"That's why we don't find cows with burials," she said.
Dr Sayer added: "The cow burial is unique in Europe which makes this an incredibly exciting and important find.
"I don't think I'll find anything as significant as this again in my lifetime."