Burial Assemblage from Barber's Point, Friston (FRS 001)
A community excavation at Barbers Point, Friston, revealed a burial belonging to a 16 year old Anglo-Saxon young woman. The burial, dating to AD 600, is part of a cemetery that was discovered at the site. What is remarkable about this particular grave was the deposition of an unusual assemblage of grave goods, including preserved textiles, placed inside a wooden box.
Above left: Photograph showing the contents of wooden box during excavation. Above right: Reconstruction of the wooden box and its contents (Images copyright of Suffolk County Council Archaeological Service, illustration by David Gillingswater)
The wooden box contained a variety of different items. A series of iron rings, which would have been worn around the waist in life, at first seem quite mundane, but prove to be quite interesting. One of which was threaded with beads, which is unusual in itself as beads are usually strung into necklaces. Hung upon the loops were two iron keys, perhaps signifying the status of the young lady once she would have come of age. Among the loops was a curated Iron Age terret ring which looks likely to have been incorporated into the chain, and must have some appeal to its Anglo-Saxon owner.
A selection of weaving equipment was also deposited inside the box, perhaps reflecting a task the deceased undertook during her lifetime. These items include a spindle whorl and an iron rod with yarn still wound around it! Sherds of pottery from the fill of the grave could have once been vessels containing an offering wool. A perforated fossil found in the grave could have acted as a spindle whorl or an amulet.
Interestingly alongside the functional items listed above was a set of objects, termed curios, that have been collected and may have held symbolic meanings to the deceased, or their family. These items included Roman glass fragments, a cowrie shell and an unworked piece of amber. The fossil may have also had symbolic associations.
It is quite clear that these objects were gifted to the deceased and are a complex reflection of this young lady’s identity and social status, of which we may never fully understand.
Above: Reconstruction of the burial of the young lady (Image copyright of Suffolk County Council Archaeological Service, illustration by David Gillingswater)