Unique Burial: Bizarre ícow womaní found in Anglo-Saxon dig
Archaeologists excavating an Anglo-Saxon cemetery in Cambridgeshire say the discovery of a woman buried with a cow is a "genuinely bizarre" find.
The grave was uncovered in Oakington by students from Manchester Metropolitan University and the University of Central Lancashire.
At first it was thought the animal skeleton was a horse.
Student Jake Nuttall said: "Male warriors might be buried with horses, but a woman and a cow is new to us."
He added: "We were excited when we thought we had a horse, but realising it was a cow made it even more bizarre."
Archaeologists described the find as "unique in Europe"
Co-director of the excavation, Dr Duncan Sayer, from the University of Central Lancashire, said: "Animal burials are extremely rare, anyway.
"There are only 31 horse burials in Britain and they are all with men.
"This is the first animal to be discovered with a woman from this period - the late fifth Century - and itís really interesting that itís a cow, a symbol of economic and domestic wealth and power.
"Itís also incredibly early to find any grave of a woman buried with such obvious wealth."
The skeleton was found with grave goods including brooches and hundreds of amber and decorated glass beads.
Grave goods including brooches indicated the woman was of high status
"She also had a complete chatelaine [keychain] set, which is an iron girdle and a symbol of her high status," Dr Sayer said.
"It indicates she had access to the communityís wealth.
"She is almost certainly a regional elite - a matriarchal figure buried with the objects that describe her identity to the people who attended her funeral."
Joint director Dr Faye Simpson, from Manchester Metropolitan, said: "A cow is a big thing to give up.
"Itís a source of food and something that would have been very expensive to keep, so to sacrifice it would be a big decision.
"They would have wanted to give her something really important to show respect and they wouldnít have done that for just anybody.
"Thatís why we donít find cows with burials," she said.
Dr Sayer added: "The cow burial is unique in Europe which makes this an incredibly exciting and important find.
"I donít think Iíll find anything as significant as this again in my lifetime."
Article from: bbc.co.uk
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