Harpole Treasure: 'Hugely significant' medieval discovery in village near Northampton features on BBC television programme 'Digging For Britain'

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BBC 2’s Digging for Britain was given an exclusive look at the extraordinary find

Medieval 'treasure' found in a village near Northampton featured in a BBC television programme on Sunday night (January 22) - here's what happened.

Last year, while excavating land just off Sandy Lane in Harpole ahead of a new housing development, a team of archaeologists from the Museum of London Archaeology (MOLA) found an Anglo Saxon burial with a stunning array of beautiful, fragile finds.

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The find, dubbed by archaeologists as the 'Harpole Treasure', included a 1,300-year-old gold and gemstone necklace within an “internationally significant” female burial.

The 'Harpole Treasure' featured on BBC Two's 'Digging for Britain' on Sunday (January 22)The 'Harpole Treasure' featured on BBC Two's 'Digging for Britain' on Sunday (January 22)
The 'Harpole Treasure' featured on BBC Two's 'Digging for Britain' on Sunday (January 22)

Presenter of BBC Two's Digging for Britain, professor Alice Roberts, was given an exclusive look at the extraordinary find and the chance to delve deeper.

MOLA's Liz Barham told the programme that she believes that it is probably a mid to late seventh century burial. She added that on the balance of probability this was a high-status woman.

"The bones in the grave had practically disappeared, but the jewellery is remarkably well preserved. Dating to the seventh century, this is a hugely significant find," said Ms Barham.

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Analysing the 1,300-year-old necklace, professor Roberts was in awe of its beauty.

She said: "It's astonishing the range of different techniques that are brought together in this single necklace.

"It's beautiful from a distance. And then you get closer and there's just all this pattern and design, and the craftmanship in that. When you look at the little cells which are created with thin sheets of gold separating them, and then the garnets have to be cut to shape presumably to be slotted into each of those differently shaped cells.

"Once pieced back together, it's clear that this necklace is one of the most beautiful and important Anglo-Saxon objects ever found. It shouts wealth and status."

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Ms Barham added: "You also have these tiny curled wires set into this piece as well. They must have been really difficult to make at a time when there were no microscopes, no magnification. Somebody has obviously taken a great deal of time to make this beautiful piece.”

Professor Roberts went on to say that “this grave hasn't given up all its secrets just yet”...

MOLA's Riva Butilkova is still excavating a block lifted sample from the grave where the necklace was found and believes there is more to find.

Ms Butilkova said: "We found what looks like silver edge over here (piece of metal). You can see by the greyish tint over here. What we see here is there is some wood.

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"We X-rayed the whole block to see what kind of structure is underneath here.”

MOLA told the programme it has found a huge silver cross mounted on wood.

Professor Roberts said: "It's the first time anything like this has ever been found.

"This elaborate cross suggests the team may have found the burial of an early Christian leader or even Anglo-Saxon royalty."

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The micro excavation and conservation work at the MOLA labs will continue but it will to take a few months for MOLA to fully excavate the block and see the details of the cross.

Professor Roberts ended by saying: "I will just have to be patient and catch up when the team have finished revealing...the Harpole Treasure."

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