One (Saxon) Man and His Horse

By Morgan, Angela | History Today, January 1998 | Go to article overview

One (Saxon) Man and His Horse


Morgan, Angela, History Today


Within days of a major archaeological find of a horse and man burial thought to be on a par with the Sutton Hoo discoveries, researchers world-wide were being kept up-to-date on the latest information via a special Internet site. Over 600 callers visited the site at http://www.Suffolk within the first forty-eight hours and this included the Universities of Canberra, Harvard, Cambridge and Oxford as well as people from Spain, Germany, Finland, NZ, Canada and ireland. John Newman, archaeologist at Suffolk County Council said: This is a coming together of ages -- one of the latest, most important discoveries in Great Britain illustrated on the most up-to-the-minute information source.'

The excavations have proved to be of immense importance in extending understanding of the Anglo-Saxon period. Previous excavations in 1956-57 at an adjacent site had revealed the existence of an Anglo-saxon cemetery. The decision to construct new dormitory buildings at RAF Lakenheath -- a military airbase occupied by the USAF -- presented an opportunity to discover the size of the cemetery.

The discovery of a large grave complex, complete with ring ditch separate from the main cemetery, raised immediate interest, even more so when it was found to contain a man and horse burial complete with decorative harness fittings. According to John Newman, 'This is a major find of national importance as the harness fittings were left in place when the horse was buried making it possible for experts to reconstruct how the harness was worn. The recovery of evidence of this quality is extremely rare from Anglo-Saxon England.'

It is believed that the horse and rider were buried around 550 AD. The presence of the harness will enable researchers to discover for the first time whether the animals were ridden or driven. USAF veterinary surgeons estimate that the horse could have been as big as 16 hands. A wooden bucket, believed to have originally been full of food, was buried by the horse's head.

Another significant aspect of the find is that the grave contains a man and a horse buried together. At nearby Sutton Hoo, a man and a horse were also discovered, but in separate graves. …

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