(Originally published in May 2020)
The skeleton - of a 6th century Anglo-Saxon adult female with grave goods - was discovered during excavation of an Early Anglo-Saxon cemetery in Oakington, Cambridgeshire, by archaeologists of Manchester Metropolitan, and Central Lancashire universities, in 2014. Their dig, which spanned multiple seasons from 2012-14, featured in Series 3 episode 1 of “Digging for Britain”.
The particular burial in question (grave 116- nicknamed “Piper”) uncovered during the 2014 excavation, was very close to the modern road, which modern underground infrastructure supplying the village follows. The skeleton was found with a small-long brooch on each shoulder, and an expensive large cruciform brooch face down, indicating she had been buried in a peplos dress and centrally pinned cloak. She also had wrist-clasps representing a sleeved dress beneath the peplos, and had swags of glass and amber beads.
The archaeologists noted during the 13-hour excavation how impressively the boring of the pipe had punched through cleanly, with minimal disruption to the burial, and missing the grave-goods by a matter of centimetres.
Respectful treatment of human remains is certainly desirable, and an increasingly important priority for archaeologists conducting excavations. No archaeologist or engineer would want to see an ancient burial skewered in this way. What happened to “Piper” was obviously unfortunate, but was almost certainly an unavoidable accident, and not a wanton act of ignorance and desecration.
Excavation discussed at: https://boneswithoutbarriers.org/blog/grave-116-1404828702