A recent archaeological discovery in the United Kingdom offers a fascinating glimpse into life in the Anglo-Saxon era. In an unassuming Lincolnshire village field, local resident Graham Vickers uncovered an 8th century silver stylus using a metal detector. When numerous other discoveries were made, researchers realized they had stumbled upon an entire settlement.
Vickers informed the Portable Antiquities Scheme, a group connected to the British Museum that encourages people to report any findings, about his discovery. A team from the University of Sheffield then visited the field to conduct intensive research. It turns out the field was once an island that holds a wealth of hidden information about how ancient people lived.
As well as digging trenches to uncover more artifacts, the team conducted geophysical and topographical surveys to create a digital image showing the island’s ancient location. Water levels in the area were higher in the days of the Anglo-Saxons, and the island that was indistinguishable from the surrounding countryside for centuries was once encircled by marshland.
Along with the first stylus, 21 more styli, about 300 copper dress pins, tweezers, and coins from the 7th or 8th century, which are called ‘sceattas,’ were found. One of the most thrilling discoveries was a lead tablet carved with an Anglo-Saxon woman’s name, ‘Cudberg.’ Another unique find was a small glass counter garnished with colored interwoven strands.
The research team posits the mysterious island dwellers formed a monastic community or trading center, although future finds may provide more clues. For now, we know they smelted metal and guarded against floods with a reinforced bank. Their trash included butchered bones from animals and pottery fragments.
The scientists praised the Portable Antiquities Scheme for mobilizing people to share discoveries that lead to fresh understandings of our human history. One of the lead researchers on the Lincolnshire team, University of Sheffield professor of European Historical Archaeology Dr. Hugh Willmott, said, “Our findings have demonstrated that this is a site of international importance…”
Images courtesy of the University of Sheffield and the Portable Antiquities Scheme