Wealthy Anglo Saxons from the 5th century found buried with their eyeliner and ear wax removers

WENDOVER, United Kingdom — HS2 archaeologists have discovered hundreds of items buried with wealthy Anglo Saxons — including eyeliner and ear wax removers! Experts say they found the “grave goods” after excavating 141 burial sites in Wendover, Buckinghamshire.

The artifacts ranged from jewelry and beads, to swords, shields, and spears — all buried with the dead. Interestingly, the resting places also contained “personal hygiene kits,” including ear wax removers, toothpicks, and tweezers.

Researchers even found brooches, combs, and a cosmetic tube that may have contained a substance used as eyeliner. The site is one of the largest Anglo Saxon burial grounds unearthed in Great Britain.

Anglo Saxon skeletons
Anglo-Saxon skeletons in Wendover (Credit: HS2 Ltd. / SWNS)

The items, uncovered last year, date back to the fifth and sixth centuries, a period filled with gaps in historical and archaeological records. They will therefore “contribute a significant amount to the understanding of how people in Anglo-Saxon Britain lived their lives,” the HS2 archaeologists say in a statement to SWNS.

Experts say they will help analyze “what culture and society was actually like during the undocumented time era.”

Dan Snow
Rare discoveries to feature on Dan Snow’’s History Hit streaming service and podcast released 16th June 2022. (Credit: HS2 Ltd. / SWNS)

“This stunning set of discoveries on the HS2 route can tell us more about how our predecessors lived, fought and ultimately died. It is one of the best and most revealing post Roman sites in the country,” renowned British historian and television presenter Dan Snow says, according to SWNS.

Almost three quarters of the graves contained unusually rare grave goods of high quality, which suggests the site was the final resting place of a wealthy Anglo-Saxon community.

“1500 years ago people in Britain stopped writing things down. Traditionally this period has been dismissed as a Dark Age. But archaeology has filled the gaps,” Snow adds. “By studying the things our forebears have left in the ground, their glass, jewelry, weapons and even their bodies, we can build a rich picture of a dynamic and vital period of our history.”

Anglo Saxon pedestal buckelurn
A 6th century decorative footed pedestal bückelurn with three horns, decorated with cross stamps, found in a grave in Buckinghamshire. There is a twin item that is currently on display in Salisbury Museum that is so similar, experts believe they may be made by the same potter. (Credit: HS2 Ltd. / SWNS)

The team of around 30 field archeologists from INFRA JV, working for HS2 and Fusion JV, also found evidence of Neolithic, Bronze Age, Iron Age, and Roman activity, but it was the presence of the Anglo-Saxon burial ground that appeared the most significant.

“As we near the end of our archaeology field work on Phase One of HS2, we are just at the beginning of our understanding of how the discoveries will improve our historical knowledge of Britain,” lead Archaeologist for HS2 Ltd, Mike Court, tells SWNS.

“The archaeological finds made at this site in Wendover will not only be of interest to the local community but are of national importance, providing a valuable insight into life in Anglo-Saxon Britain.”

The site contained a total of 138 graves, with 141 inhumation burials and five cremation burials. Along with the personal hygiene items, the graves contained over 2,000 beads, 89 brooches, 51 knives, 40 buckles, 15 spearheads, and seven shield bosses.

Anglo Saxon broach
A copper alloy small square headed broach, decorated with gold gilt, from the 5th or 6th century, uncovered during HS2 archaeological work in Wendover. (Credit: HS2 Ltd. / SWNS)

Archaeologists noted how the goods with each burial appeared to be tailored to each individual, which suggests the items would have held some significance to the deceased and the mourners at the graveside. For example, one female’s grave contained a vast array of goods — the quality of which suggest that she was of high-status amongst the buried population at the site.

The woman was buried with multiple silver and copper rings, items made from ivory, and a complete ornate glass bowl made of pale green glass. Researchers believe it was made at the turn of the fifth century.

“This significance of this site for our historical and archaeological understanding of Anglo-Saxon Britain is huge,” says lead Archaeologist for Fusion JV, Dr. Rachel Wood. “It is not a site I would ever have anticipated finding – to have found one of these burials would have been astonishing, so to have found so many is quite unbelievable.”

Anglo Saxon broach
A copper alloy small square headed broach, decorated with gold gilt, from the 5th or 6th century, uncovered during HS2 archaeological work in Wendover. (Credit: HS2 Ltd. / SWNS)

A program of assessment and analysis will be carried out over the next few years which will provide more insight into the stories of the people buried at the site in Wendover, and the history of the extraordinary artifacts uncovered.

South West News Service writer Lauren Beavis contributed to this report.

Anglo Saxon window urn
A unique 6th century window urn with the bottom of a reused Roman glass bottle fired into the ceramic. (Credit: HS2 Ltd. / SWNS)
Anglo-Saxon burial
Grave goods from Anglo-Saxon burials in Wendover. (Credit: HS2 Ltd. / SWNS)
A pair of 5th or 6th century decorated copper alloy tweezers uncovered in a HS2 excavation in Wendover. (Credit: HS2 Ltd. / SWNS)
A 5th or 6th century copper alloy toiletry set, with ear wax cleaning spoon, found in an Anglo Saxon burial of a likely female between 18-24. (Credit: HS2 Ltd. / SWNS)
Anglo Saxon glass beads
Decorated glass beads uncovered in an Anglo Saxon burial during HS2 archaeological excavations in Wendover (Credit: HS2 Ltd. / SWNS)
Anglo Saxon ring
A silver ‘zoomorphic’ ring, date uncertain, discovered in an Anglo Saxon burial in Wendover. (Credit: HS2 Ltd. / SWNS)
Anglo Saxon bowl
A tubular rimmed glass bowl found in a burial thought to be made around the turn of the 5th century and could have been an heirloom from the Roman era. (Credit: HS2 Ltd. / SWNS)
Anglo Saxon bead
A ceramic bead, made from Roman pottery, uncovered during HS2 archaeological excavations of Anglo Saxon burials in Wendover (Credit: HS2 Ltd. / SWNS)
Anglo Saxon skeleton
A possible male skeleton, aged 17-25, found with a iron spear point imbedded into the thoracic vertebra, excavated during HS2 archaeological work in Wendover. (Credit: HS2 Ltd. / SWNS)
Anglo Saxon skeleton
A possible male skeleton, aged 17-25, found with a iron spear point imbedded into the thoracic vertebra, excavated during HS2 archaeological work in Wendover. (Credit: HS2 Ltd. / SWNS)

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