Archaeologists Discover Lost Anglo-Saxon Village And Roman Camp After Major Excavations In Cambridgeshire

In this huge undertaking, 350 hectares have been excavated and the remains of items like pottery, jewelry and prehistoric tools have been recovered.

Excavations in Cambridgeshire reveal archaeological treasures, including Anglo-Saxon and Roman villages.
Peter Macdiarmid / Getty Images

In this huge undertaking, 350 hectares have been excavated and the remains of items like pottery, jewelry and prehistoric tools have been recovered.

In one of the biggest archaeological digs ever in the U.K., over 200 archaeologists have excavated 350 hectares and discovered a long-lost Anglo-Saxon village and a Roman camp in the heart of Cambridgeshire. The research was conducted along 21 miles of relatively flat farmland, with the remains of the old medieval village of Houghton once again exposed after languishing for 700 years.

Along the 21-mile route that archaeologists have been busy excavating, there would have once stood numerous small villages along with henges, burial mounds, pottery kilns, and even a large center that would have been frequented by Romans, The Guardian reported.

A multitude of objects have been found during this massive archaeological excavation in Cambridgeshire, including flint tools that would have been used by prehistoric individuals and 7,000 artifacts that would have been considered very special objects to their owners. One of these artifacts is a beautiful Roman pendant that has the head of Medusa etched into it, while another is an Anglo-Saxon flute that was fashioned out of bone.

Another ancient artifact that astonished archaeologists was a ladder constructed out of timber which is reported to still be in relatively good shape for a ladder that would have been in use around 500 BCE.

Highways England archaeologist Steve Sherlock explained that the huge archaeological undertaking in Cambridgeshire has revealed spaces that have been in use for over 6,000 years and, as such, a plethora of objects have been uncovered.

“There is not one key site but a whole expanse – the excavation has given us the whole of the English landscape over the past 6,000 years. The Anglo-Saxon village sites alone are all absolute bobby dazzlers. The larger monuments such as the henges and barrows show up in crop marks and geophysics, but you can only really see things like the post marks of timber buildings by getting down into the ground and digging.”

While people find themselves imagining the difficult conditions that many of these ancient people would have lived in, Sherlock reminds everyone that life wouldn’t have been all hard work and no play, as the bone flute that was discovered shows, and that these people were really no different from people today in many ways.

“The workshops and animal enclosures give you an impression of the hard grind of everyday life, but when you get something like the bone flute you suddenly see into a world that also had art and music, dancing and entertainment.”

  Oli Scarff / Getty Images

It was revealed by archaeologists that this village actually sat atop another older Anglo-Saxon one, in which 40 structures have been discovered so far. Relying so heavily on the forest nearby, it would have come as a blow when it was eventually enclosed and used as a royal forest, driving the medieval villagers away from their homes, according to archaeologist Emma Jeffery

“The medieval village was occupied between the 12th and early 14th centuries, and the most likely explanation for its abandonment was that they lost the use of their woods when they were enclosed as a royal forest. At a stroke they lost their grazing, foraging and bark for uses such as tanning leather, so the economic justification for the village was gone.”

Archaeological work around this area of Cambridgeshire will be continuing, and for those really interested in seeing some of these areas for themselves, there are reported to be open days planned for many of these sites, including the lost medieval village of Houghton.