Garnet and Gold is the name I gave to my box-set of four historical novels https://www.overdrive.com/media/9112917/garnet-and-gold because when I think of those early kingdoms, I imagine the splendour of the jewellery made by patiently hammering thin sheets of gold, overlaid with a labyrinth of niello work, carefully soldered to encase precisely-cut pieces of garnet, the semi-translucent gemstone, which would be enhanced by the light passing through the stone reflected back by the gold layer. Clever, or what? My guess is that the best pieces, which we are fortunate to see from Sutton Hoo in the British Museum and the Trumpington Cross—the main feature of this blog—in the Cambridge University Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, were reserved for the richest and most powerful individuals f the time (about the 7th century AD). Historians are almost certain that the Sutton Hoo ship burial was the grave of King Raedwald, king of East Anglia.
What then of the mysterious bed burial near Cambridge? Who was the teenage girl archaeologists estimate between 14 and 18 laid to rest with a stunning pectoral cross in one of only 15 bed burials so far brought to light? My guess is that she was a princess who can be identified as one of England's earliest converts to Christianity – and who lived in a settlement boasting one of the oldest Anglo-Saxon Christian burial sites in Britain. The pectoral cross is only the fifth of its type found to date. Perhaps the most famous is the one buried with St Cuthbert in Durham cathedral.
The 3.5cm diameter Trumpington Cross comes from one of the earliest Christian burials in Britain, probably dating between AD650-AD680. Because the earliest Anglo-Saxon converts to Christianity were from noble families, with its adoption filtering down through the social hierarchy, the teenager buried at Trumpington Meadows was undoubtedly of aristocratic or even royal status.
Although buried with treasured possessions including gold and garnet pins, an iron knife, glass beads and a chain which would have hung off her belt, it was the unexpected presence of the cross –which marks the teenage girl as an early convert to Christianity.
The Trumpington Cross is testament to the very early years of the English church after St Augustine was dispatched to England by the Pope in 597AD to convert the pagan Anglo-Saxon kings; what a spectacular dress accessory!
The bed consisted of a wooden frame held together by metal brackets, with further pieces of looped metal fixing the cross-slats to create a suspended bed base, similar to modern beds, but with a straw mattress. The body was then placed on the bed, probably when it was already in the grave.
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