Complete skeletons have been excavated in what is believed to be an Anglo-Saxon cemetery on Northumberland’s Holy Island.
Members of Dig Ventures excavating skeletons [Credit: Dig Ventures]
Graves unearthed during excavations at Sanctuary Close, near the ruins of Lindisfarne Priory, disclosed peculiar eating practices of the past.
Seal bones were discovered among those of other animals in dietary refuse.
David Petts, associate professor of archaeology at Durham University and leader of the excavation, stated, “They are hunting seals and maximizing the available resources.”
The investigation has uncovered what is thought to be an Anglo-Saxon cemetery connected to the monastery on Holy island.
It is believed that those who are interred on the site labored on the monastery land, were tenants, or were pilgrims who had traveled to the island.
Skeleton containing a white quartz gemstone [Credit: Dig Ventures]
This is the second excavation on Holy Island in the past few weeks. The first, conducted by the Peregrini Lindisfarne Landscape Partnership, unearthed an ancient church on The Heugh, a ridge that overlooks the Sanctuary Close neighborhood.
David stated, “They found the church, and we found the congregation.”
Dig Ventures, a crowdfunder for archaeological initiatives, and Durham University have organized the most recent excavations.
An excavation on the site last year uncovered bone fragments that have been dated to the eighth century.
This year’s excavations have unearthed burials containing two complete skeletons, which have been transported to Durham University for research into such topics as nutrition, health, and origin.
Ventures Members Excavating Charnel Pit [Credit: Dig Ventures]
After completing their investigation, they will return to Holy Island.
David stated, “Clearly, there are additional graves on the property.”
A trench containing bones was also discovered. These were likely unearthed by subsequent plowing and collected together before being deposited in the pit.
David believes that the cemetery was for the monastic neighborhood.
In a time when there were no cities, Lindisfarne, with its enormous monastery, would have been one of the most populous areas in northern Britain.
Members of the nobility would have contributed to the monastery in anticipation of being interred on the holy ground.