A 1,300-year-old gold and gemstone necklace was discovered in April on the site of a new housing development in the town of Harpole, approximately 60 miles northwest of London. The necklace was found to have belonged to a strong lady who may have been an early Christian religious leader in the area, according to archaeologists working with the property developer. Thus, the discovery sheds fresh information on medieval Christianity in Britain.
Lyn Blackmore, a senior discoveries specialist at the Museum of London Archaeology and a known expert in Saxon findings with 38 years of expertise in the study of archaeological finds with a focus on medieval Christianity, made the discovery. Jill Lawless said that: the body of the woman herself is “long gone – some tooth enamel is all that remains. Her long-buried trove will shed new light on life in 7th-century England, a time when medieval Christianity was battling with paganism for people’s allegiance.”
Blackmore mentioned to Lawless that the items found in the grave are “a definite statement of wealth as well as Christian faith […] She was extremely devout, but was she a princess? Was she a nun? Was she more than a nun – an abbess? … We don’t know.” One of the most intriguing items discovered is a rectangular gold necklace with a garnet-inlaid cross design. The pendant was formerly the focal point of a necklace that also featured pendants fashioned from semiprecious stone decorations and gold Roman coins.
According to the news of Aleteia, the burial occurred between 630 and 670, the same time period as numerous other high-ranking women’s tombs discovered in the British Isles. “Earlier high-status burials were mostly men and experts say the change could reflect women gaining power and status in England’s new Christian faith.” Abbots and abbesses gained power as the scope of monastic life, both male and female, grew.