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Item number: 3205

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A Rare Box Containing the Partial skull and Teeth of an Early 5th Century
Anglo-Saxon British Settler
From the Pagan Anglo-Saxon Burial Ground at Kempston, Bedfordshire
Discovered in the 19th Century During Gravel Extraction Works
Ex James Wyatt Collection, Ex English Private Collection

European pagan settlers came to Britain in the 4th century, bringing with them their customs and beliefs and ushering in an era often referred to by historians as the ‘Dark Ages’. The early invaders were obviously attracted to settling in areas with an abundance of essential and advantageous natural resources, Bedfordshire was one such location and during the 19th Century it was discovered during gravel digging operations at Kempston, that the area was home to a particularly large and important Pagan Anglo-Saxon cemetery.

During the 18th and 19th century, (prior to the advent of modern archaeology and mechanised farming techniques), gentleman collectors and antiquarians became very interested in these ancient English burials, enthusiastically excavating and collecting material for growing country house collections of British antiquities.

The discovery  of the ancient Kempston burial ground generated great interest in Victorian society and much of the material discovered was enthusiastically recorded by the prominent local antiquarian James Wyatt who became particularly involved in the proceedings.

This particularly emotive small box contains 11 teeth, (9 detached, 2 in-situ) and the partial skull, (right eye socket/upper jaw), of an individual whose remains were discovered and saved during the 19th Century gravel extractions. The lid of the box is handwritten with the particulars of provenance, ‘Saxon Burial Ground, in Drift Gravel at Kempston, with care’.

Dimensions (Approximate)

Box: Height: 11.5cm,  Width: 7.5cm,   Depth: 3.8cm