Dig reveals thirty pagan Saxon burials

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Thirty human skeletons discovered during the excavation of an ancient burial ground at West Meon attracted plenty of interest during an open day on Sunday. Weapons and ornaments dug up during the project were also put on show. 

Exhibition of finds after a dig by archaeologists at West Meon [Credit: Petersfield Post]

“We thought we might get about 30 visitors, but in total there were about 130,” said Dr Steve Ford, the archaeologist in charge of the project. 

He said the human remains would now be taken away for radio carbon dating, which will enable experts to say within the nearest hundred years how old they are. 

Dr Ford said the earliest remains are ashes contained in a burial urn in a Bronze Age barrow, which dates from about 1700 BC. 

He estimated that the skeletons date from the Saxon period, about 600 to 700 AD. 

“We have found about 30 inhumation burials. They include men, women and quite a few children. 

“The men were buried with spears and knives, and there are also ornaments including stone and glass beads and iron pins.” 

He added that the fact that the skeletons were buried facing north/south indicated that the people were probably pagan rather than Christian. 

“Once we radio-carbon date the bones we will know a lot more about them, including where they came from and what their diet was,” said Dr Ford. 

The excavation will be completed this week, and the site will be restored prior to being developed for new housing. 

Dr Ford works for Thames Valley Archaeological Services, which was contracted by developers Hyde Martlet and Winchester City Council to carry out an excavation before building begins. 

Source: Petersfield Post [November 24, 2011]

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