|Last night SWAAG members were treated to an excellent talk by Professor Emerita Charlotte Roberts, about the excavation of an Anglo-Saxon cemetery in Bamburgh. The burials are in an area which is now sand dunes, near to Bamburgh Castle. They were first discovered in the 19th Century due to coastal erosion. In 1998 a rescue excavation began and between 1999 and 2007 there was a series of archaeological investigations of the site. The cemetery was linked to the royal centre that was Bamburgh in the 7th-9th centuries.
Professor Roberts led a study of the bones using paleo-osteological techniques. There were 98 skeletons in total, a quarter of which were those of juveniles of all ages. The average height in adulthood was calculated as around 5'7" for men and 5'4" for women.
Strikingly, there was a lot of evidence of very poor dental health. Charlotte described it as "grim". This could be the result of a diet high in protein and sugars, perhaps from honey and mead. There was also other evidence in the bones of obesity and gout. There was also some indication of chronic anaemia, which might suggest parasites in the gut.
One individual had grooved teeth suggesting someone who used their teeth in their work, perhaps textiles or basket making. There was evidence that many of these people habitually squatted when working. Another young man had suffered fatal wounds from a weapon.
Over half were not locals. Isotope analysis showed origins as far away as Scandinavia, the Mediterranean area and North Africa. 25% died young.
Once the project was concluded, the bones were once again laid to rest in specially made coffins in the crypt of St Aidan's church. Today you can visit the crypt where there is an audio-visual display explaining the project. In the church there is a touch-screen display and access to the digital ossuary which is also online.