‘Searching for Saxons’ and PASt Explorers research project!

Blog 1: The background to the project

In September 2019, a group of metal-detectorists received permission from the landowner to go out detecting on land just north of Lincoln. They came across brooches, spearheads and shield fittings and other items, realising their importance they got in touch with the local Finds Liaison Officer Dr Lisa Brundle of the Portable Antiquities Scheme (PAS).  It was clear that the metalwork dated to the early Anglo-Saxon period and was of significance. Among the ornate pieces was a copper-alloy and gilded great square-headed brooch decorated with Style I animal and human designs. The detected finds represented both male and female burials that had been disturbed by deep ploughing and brought to the surface.

Great square-headed brooch
Great square-headed brooch © Portable Antiquities Scheme 

The cemetery was at risk. In response to this, Lisa forged together a plan to rescue the site by working together with Lincolnshire County Council, West Lindsey District Council and Historic England. It was professionally excavated in the late summer of 2020 by Network Archaeology and hundreds of people locally, nationally and globally followed the discoveries as they came out of the ground through the Searching for Saxons Facebook page. A total of 14 inhumed (13 adults and one perinate) and 10 cremations (all adults and all urned) were excavated. We were very lucky to work closely with local specialists who volunteered their time to micro-excavate the cremation pots and analyse the ceramic urns. We wait with anticipation for the final archaeological report!

This discovery inspires many scientific questions. Since the end of 2020, we have run a virtual project for Portable Antiquities Scheme (PAS) volunteers as part of the PASt Explorers and Searching for Saxons project. The aim was to keep current volunteers engaged with the PAS and archaeological finds while they cannot meet in person, and to build their skill sets and archaeological knowledge. During lockdown, through a series of online talks and workshops run by Lisa and her colleagues at Lincolnshire County Council and invited specialist speakers, volunteers gained an insight into online heritage resources and early medieval burial archaeology and small finds, equipping them with the skills they need to conduct further research independently and as part of a research group.

Online heritage resources were used like the PAS database, Lincolnshire Heritage Explorer, maps and place-name evidence, and other freely available sources including QGIS and LiDAR. The aim is to investigate the landscape around the newly discovered early Anglo-Saxon cemetery found north of Lincoln, professionally excavated in 2020, and explore why people lived and buried their dead a few miles north of the old Roman provincial capital Lincoln. The findings will be available through the PAS county blog page, a poster at the Archaeological Festival at The Collection Museum and a final report will be deposited into the Historic Environment Record (HER). 

Stay tuned for a series of blogs that highlight some of our findings!

Spearhead © Portable Antiquities Scheme