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Vast ‘Dark Ages’ burial site unearthed as most significant discovery in a generation

23 June 2022

Cardiff archaeology alumni help to reveal largest early Anglo-Saxon inhumation cemetery

Archaeology graduates from Cardiff have been part of a team assessing one of the largest and most well-furnished Early Anglo-Saxon inhumation cemeteries ever discovered.

The extraordinary 2020 discovery was unearthed by archaeologists in Buckinghamshire working ahead of the HS2 rail project covering the new line between London and Birmingham.

The find at an undisclosed location near Wendover in the Chilterns consists of a 5th-6th century Anglo-Saxon burial site with 141 burials laid out according to Anglo-Saxon custom.

Among the artefacts painstakingly excavated alongside those buried were stunning swords and spearheads, lavishly decorated shields and medieval jewellery. These near-complete objects present a glimpse of the time immediately after the Roman withdrawal from Britain, and also items such as a seax or Anglo-Saxon knife.

The discovery described as one of the most important early medieval discoveries in a generation.

Archaeology alumni Ioan McCarthy (BA Archaeology and History, 2019), Phil Holt (BA Archaeology, 2018) and Nicholas Wells (Archaeology 2004-2011) were among the Cardiff contingent of the team excavating and analysing the finds.

Early Medieval archaeologist Ioan worked on the post-excavation analysis in Cardiff. His journey into archaeology came later in life, as pursued his degree thanks to the Exploring the Past pathway at the university.

Ioan joined Dan Snow to explain some of the amazing finds for History Hit TV’s Digging up the Dark Ages a new television documentary running alongside its sister podcast Gone Medieval.

The programmes look at the revelatory finds from a little documented part of British history, as experts begin to see the people behind them, and the way they may have lived their lives.

Watch this short programme taster featuring Cardiff alumni.

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