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07 November 2017
The Anglo-Saxon monastery on Lindisfarne is one of the most iconic sites in early medieval history - yet archaeologists are still in the dark about its precise location. Archaeologist Dr David Petts shares a few of his favourite finds from recent excavations in search of this important site.
Anglo Saxon Stone Grave Marker
This is a fragment of an Anglo-Saxon stone grave marker of a type known as a ‘namestone’. It probably dates to the 7th -8th century AD and is contemporary to the period when the monastery at Lindisfarne was its height before the first Viking raid. In total there are fourteen similar stones known from the island. Although it has been damaged, there is still enough of the original text visible to make out the name of the person who it commemorates. They were called Ytfrith – a previously unrecorded Anglo-Saxon personal name. It is unlikely that Ytfrith was a monk. Given the presence of the skeletal remains of children in the area of the early cemetery where the stone was found, it is more likely to have been the burial place of the wider community, including individuals who had given gifts to the monastery.
Early Medieval Stone Sculpture
This fragment of early medieval stone sculpture is probably part of a larger stone cross. The pair of parallel lines that run down the centre of the stone are likely to be the stem of a larger carved cross, which would have had small crosslets flanking it. It is hard to find parallels for this carving from north-east England. Instead, the best comparisons are from early medieval carved stones in Western Scotland and Ireland. This is an important reminder of the connections that Lindisfarne had with the Irish Sea world. It was initially founded by monks from the great Scottish monastery of Iona off the west coast of Mull, and there were continued contacts between Lindisfarne and Scotland and Ireland.
A Northumbrian Sceatta (Silver Coin)
This silver coin was issued by the Northumbrian King Eadberht who ruled from AD737-758 who became king after his cousin Ceolwulf abdicated and became a monk at Lindisfarne. These coins are known as Sceatta; although they are not uncommon in the southern parts of the kingdom of Northumbria, they seem to have been less widely used in the north. An identical coin to this one was found in previous excavations on the site of the monastery in the 1970s.
Join Dr Petts and find out more about his archaeological search for this important site when he visits Ripon’s Workhouse Museum on Sat 25 Nov, 2-3pm, this is also a chance to take a closer look at finds from the dig. Tickets for this special event are £5 per person - for more info visit www.riponmuseums.co.uk
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