Galloping out of History, a Saxon and His Warhorse

Article excerpt


SIDE by side they lie in the incongruous surroundings of a U.S. airbase in Suffolk - an Anglo-Saxon warrior and his faithful horse.

Buried in the middle of one of the most advanced defence establishments in Britain, they evoke an age of swords, spears and shields.

Discovered during building work on the site at Laken-heath, the warrior lies in a coffin with his weapons beside him and also a sheep's carcass - perhaps food for his journey to the next world.

The horse wears its richly decorated bridle. Beneath its chin lie the remains of a bucket, which probably contained oats or bere, the grain which was the precursor to barley. This would have been food for its own journey to the afterlife.

British Museum archaeologists describe the find as a major one. Only five similar graveyards have been found before. There are more than 140 graves at the airbase.

With them are items of everyday living such as beads and axes, the signs that a community fought and lived where today F1-11 bombers thunder into the sky.

Traces of a ring ditch have been found encircling the warrior, which means a barrow or burial mound must have risen over his tomb, implying he was a powerful and wealthy leader.

Heathland and Forestry Commission plantations surround the area. In the warrior's day, too, there would have been heath and trees.

Archeologists are still searching for the great communal hall they are certain would have stood nearby. …