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GRAVES FROM SAXON WARRIORS FOUND


02 December 2004

An ancient graveyard discovered on a hill overlooking Marlborough on Sunday looks set to confirm the long-held belief that the town had Saxon origins.
The five graves containing the remains of what are believed to be Saxon warriors complete with shields was made by metal detector enthusiasts.
Realising the enormity of their discovery, the enthusiasts halted their exploration and notified police that they had found a burial site.
History and guide books have claimed for years that Marlborough dated from the early Saxon period. Although it is frequently stated that The Green was the centre of the Saxon community around which Marlborough developed, no proof has ever been found.
Sunday's discovery is undeniable proof there was a Saxon settlement where Marlborough now stands, said historian Brian Edwards this week.
The precise location of the find on farmland to the south of the town is being kept secret to prevent it being looted. The graves, which could date back 1,500 years, have been covered over pending a future archaeological investigation.
Enthusiasts Gary Lumsden and Sean Raynsford had been taking part in an authorised rally at the site when the metal bosses from the centre of the Saxon shields set off signals in their metal detectors.
Mr Lumsden, who lives near Marlow and who has been a metal detector enthusiast for 20 years, said he had had many finds before but not of this significance. "As soon as I dug down I realised what it was and how important it was," he said.
"Somebody else lifted the boss and underneath they found a bone and they stopped at that point."
Rally organiser Mick Turrell, who runs a Newbury-based metal detector business called Leisure Promotions, said: "We have searched this field once before but never found anything of great interest."
Mr Turrell said that as soon as the enthusiasts realised the importance of the find and that it was probably a burial ground, they halted digging while police were informed.
The metal detectorists have an agreement with the landowner that anything found of value is shared 50-50.
The estate owner said he was as amazed as anyone that the Saxon burial place had been found on his land.
He said: "There was no indication that anything like this was there. I am as excited as the people who found them."
The site owner said security had been installed to prevent any unauthorised digging.
Dr Paul Robinson, curator of the Wiltshire Heritage Museum in Devizes, said all Saxon settlements would have had similar burial grounds at their parish boundaries. "The correct position for early Saxon cemeteries is on the edge of the parish," said Dr Robinson. "This is exactly the place where you would expect to find one."
The site is just outside the present Marlborough town boundary but over the centuries parish borders have changed.
County archaeologist Roy Canham said it was an interesting discovery but its full importance would not be known until funding could be found for a full-scale dig.


[Source: Gazette & Herald, 2 December 2004]


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