Officials announced this week that an undiscovered 1,600-year-old burial site in northern England could provide key clues about a largely undocumented period in British history.
The government in Leeds, a city about an hour northeast of Manchester, announced on Monday that archaeologists have discovered a historic cemetery in the area believed to contain the remains of more than 60 men, women and children who lived there more than 1,000 years ago.
Among the archaeologists’ finds is one particularly noteworthy: an ancient lead sarcophagus believed to contain the remains of an aristocratic woman from the last years of the Roman Empire.
Leeds City said in a New release, pointing out that the different burial customs associated with each cultural group indicate that some of the remains may date back to the late Roman Empire and the early Anglo-Saxon kingdoms that emerged afterward. The city said archaeologists made the discovery while working on a wider excavation near Garforth in Leeds in the spring of last year.
Officials kept news of their discovery under wraps in order to protect the site’s confidentiality while initial tests were underway to learn more about the archaeological finds and their significance, according to the city. Now that the excavation is complete, officials said, experts will analyze the remains and use carbon dating to more precisely determine their age. The remains will also undergo “detailed chemical testing that can identify unusual details such as individual diets and ancestry.”
An ancient burial site in Leeds could eventually help to explain details about an important stretch of British history, when the Roman Empire passed to later Anglo-Saxon societies.
“Archaeologists hope this means the site can help them chart the largely undocumented but hugely important transition between the fall of the Roman Empire around AD 400 and the founding of the famous Anglo-Saxon kingdoms that followed,” Leeds said in its announcement. this week.
The findings could be particularly useful for Leeds, where the land once belonged to an ancient kingdom called Elmet that historians say has existed since the end of Roman rule in Britain through centuries of Anglo-Saxon settlement.
“Even after the Romans were gone, many areas were still very much a mixture of the two cultures – including Elmet,” Stuart Robinson, a spokesman for Leeds City Council, said in an email to CBS News.
“And that’s part of the reason you can see a mixture of Roman and Saxon/British cultures in burial customs at the site,” said Robinson. “So the hope is that, once analysed, these finds will give a clear picture of how Saxon culture developed in Yorkshire (and Britain).”
Roman Britain was a period of about 400 years at the beginning of the current era, when large parts of the island were occupied by the Roman Empire. Although the occupation left a significant mark on British culture, the eventual transition from the Roman occupation to the Anglo-Saxon settlements remains a little-known part of British history.
“This is potentially a discovery of great importance to our understanding of the development of ancient Britain and Yorkshire,” said David Hunter, principal archaeologist at West Yorkshire Joint Services, in a statement included in this week’s announcement from the city. Leeds. Yorkshire is the county in which Leeds is located.
“Having two communities using the same burial site is highly unusual, and whether or not their use of this cemetery overlapped will determine the significance of the find. Seen together, the burials indicate the complexity and fragility of life during what was a dynamic period in Yorkshire’s history,” Bianne continued. Hunter. “The lead coffin itself is extremely rare, so this was a really unusual dig.”
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