Anglo-Saxon cemetery


The Anglo-Saxon cemetery at Bulford is sited on a ridge overlooking Nine Mile River, close to where it joins the River Avon. The cemetery contained around 150 graves – of women, men and children – including a number of rare, re-used graves which probably point to family connections, and would have served a local community. 
The cemetery was established close to two prehistoric monuments, such ‘ancient’ earthworks often being the focus for pagan Saxon burials. Although the one grave radiocarbon dated so far, to 660–780 AD, falls in the ‘conversion period’ when the population gradually adopted Christianity as their religion, there were no indications that any of the graves contained Christian burials. Most of them were aligned roughly west to east, which although the norm within the early Christian burial tradition, is not a conclusive indicator of religious affiliation. 
A significant number of the burials included grave goods. One male grave, aligned north to south, contained a spear with a very long socketed head and, decorative bronze bindings along its shaft. Other graves contained knives, buckles and bone combs. 
Items of jewellery included a bronze brooch, bronze earrings, amber beads and a cowrie shell probably traded from the Red Sea area. One grave had a Roman coin in it, probably an heirloom, while a small pottery vessel was found in a baby’s grave. 
One woman was buried with a decorated cylindrical bronze box of a type referred to as a ‘work box’, ‘thread box’ or ‘relic box’; whatever its use, it would have been a valued personal possession. Another was buried with a chatelaine – a set of short linked chains that would have attached to a woman’s belt, used for carrying personal items.
The size, location and date of this cemetery make it of considerable research importance. By the end of the Saxon period there was a relatively large settlement in the vicinity, with 39 households recorded at Bulford in the Domesday survey. These graves, therefore, may take us right back to Bulford’s early families.