Early Christian Grave Unearthed

Article excerpt

Byline: Associated Press

LONDON -- Archaeologists excavating near Cambridge have stumbled upon a rare and mysterious find: The skeleton of a 7th-century teenager buried in an ornamental bed along with a gold-and-garnet cross, an iron knife and a purse of glass beads.

Experts say the grave is an example of an unusual Anglo-Saxon funerary practice of which very little is known. Just over a dozen of these "bed burials" have been found in Britain, and it's one of only two in which a pectoral cross -- meant to be worn over the chest -- has been discovered.

One archaeologist said the burial opened a window into the transitional period when the pagan Anglo-Saxons were gradually adopting Christianity.

"We are right at the brink of the coming of Christianity back to England," said Alison Dickens, the manager of Cambridge University's Archaeological Unit. "What we have here is a very early adopter."

The grave was dated between 650 and 680 A.D.

, was discovered about a year ago in a corner of Trumpington Meadows, a rural area just outside Cambridge that is slated for development.

Howard Williams, a professor of archaeology at the University of Chester who is not connected to the discovery, said bed burials were very rare. But he noted they also happened on mainland Europe and said Anglo-Saxons may have looked across the Channel for inspiration.

"It's part of a broader pan-European identity in life and in death," he said. …