1,300-Year-Old Necklace Found in England


The 1,300-year-old necklace found near Northampton has at least 30 pendants and beads. | Image by Hugh Gatt/MOLA

Archaeologists discovered a 1,300-year-old extremely ornate necklace made of gold and semi-precious stones at an excavation site in a Great Britain housing development.

“I was looking through a suspected rubbish pit when I saw teeth,” said Levente Bence Balázs, Museum of London Archaeology (MOLA) site supervisor. “Then two gold items appeared out of the Earth and glinted at me. These artifacts haven’t seen the light of day for 1,300 years, and to be the first person to see them is indescribable. But even then, we didn’t know quite how special this find was going to be.”

Dubbed the “Harpole Treasure,” the find is believed to have been the burial site for an extremely devout woman of high status, such as an early Christian leader, a princess, or a nun. Apart from fragments of tooth enamel, no skeletal remains were found. Alongside the necklace, researchers found a large silver cross that is still being excavated, silver casts of a human face with blue glass eyes, two decorated pots, and a copper dish.

“When the first glints of gold started to emerge from the soil, we knew this was something significant,” said Balázs. “However, we didn’t quite realize how special this was going to be. We are lucky to be able to use modern methods of analysis on the finds and surrounding burial to gain a much deeper insight into the life of this person and their final rites.”

The necklace has 30 pendants and beads made of garnets, glass, gold, and Roman coins. Archaeologists believe the find suggests a transitional period between paganism and Christianity.

“This is a fascinating burial of combined iconography: the burial bling has a distinctly pagan flavour, but the grave is also heavily vested in Christian iconography,” said Simon Mortimer, archaeology consultant for the RPS Group.

“This is a find of international importance. This discovery has nudged the course of history, and the impact will get stronger as we investigate this find more deeply,” added Balázs. “These mysterious discoveries pose so many more questions than they answer. There’s so much still to discover about what we’ve found and what it means.”

The burial site’s excavation was funded by Vistry Group, a housing development team. Before Vistry began building atop the burial site, they funded an eight-day archaeological dig that uncovered the treasure on the second to last day. Since the find, Vistry has donated the necklace to MOLA.

“It shows the fundamental value of developer-funded archaeology. Vistry’s planned development provided a unique opportunity to investigate this site. Had they not funded this work this remarkable burial may never have been found,” said Mortimer.

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