The Sleeping Dead

I’m listening to Stronger by Mary J. Blige.  Surprisingly, I’ve broken my rainy day writing streak.  It’s a sunny day.

Archaeologists in England recently uncovered a bed with the body of a young Anglo-Saxon woman.  A regal gold and garnet cross rested on her breast, and she is believed to be 1,300 years old from the period known as the dark ages.

Forensic work on the woman’s bones suggests she was about 16. There was no apparent explanation for her death. Most likely a Christian, she was buried with this beautiful cross stitched onto her gown and in the ancient pagan tradition with her treasured possessions: an iron knife and a chatelaine (a short chain that hangs from the belt used to carry keys), and some glass beads.

Pectoral crosses from the earliest times of Christianity in England and bed burials are very rare. The woman most likely wore the cross during her short life, at a time when the Anglo-Saxon aristocrats were slowly converting to the powerful new religion. Only an aristocrat or member of a royal family could have owned this gold and garnet cross.

The archaeologists who uncovered this site think this teenage girl must have been very important to own such a valuable cross and to be buried on her bed.  I find it oddly poetic in a way.  A much-loved child, perhaps, is given the most comforting internment possible.  Even in her death she is important.  Centuries later she’s been resurrected, bringing with her a precious artifact and a reminder that the past is real and that time holds many treasures and many stories.  I’m driven to wonder—what was her name?

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About cinzia8

Published writer and teacher.
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4 Responses to The Sleeping Dead

  1. Kula says:

    This is why I love Archaeology. When you discover a treasure hidden by the Earth you unlock a part of history and a story. What a great find!

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  2. cinzia8 says:

    So true. I imagine she was a loved daughter and possibly a princess that death claimed too early, and the cross, her treasured possession, belonged only to her and now the world.

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  3. Even if her death was tragic, (after all, it appears she was a young woman), her burial appears to have been conducted with love – as it should be – complete with a treasured and beautiful cross. Would her family ever have thought that one day she would be discovered, and a respectful moment was taken to reflect upon who she was and what she meant? In your own way, you have honored her life. Her legacy continues.

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  4. cinzia8 says:

    Thanks. I guess we all live a little through her mystery, and the beauty of her treasured possession has survived as well.

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