Rampion uncovers ancient Anglo Saxon remains along onshore cable route
We have been very intrigued by this unexpected Saxon discovery and it’s been fascinating to learn so much from the radiocarbon dating research and analysis about this person and how they met their end.
Human remains dating back to the 11th century were found during excavation work on the South Downs for the Rampion Offshore Wind Farm, with the body showing signs of a traumatic death.
Archaeologists from Archaeology South East, UCL, working on behalf of the Rampion project, uncovered the well-preserved remains of the adult male aged 25 to 35 years in a well-cut grave in chalk bedrock on the south-western side of Truleigh Hill, north of Shoreham-by Sea.
The 1,000-year-old remains, thought to be an execution killing of around 1010-1025 AD, were found by archaeologists when surveying the route for the onshore cable which now carries power from the 400MW wind farm. The skeleton was recovered intact with the exception of missing a few small bones from the hands and feet. He was laid facing upwards with his arms at his side in an east west alignment, with no sign of a coffin.
The remains were excavated as part of the Rampion Offshore Wind Farm development alongside environmental consultants RSK in accordance with standard and professional techniques. The skeleton’s age was established by radiocarbon dating which indicated death before the Norman Conquest, during a time known as the late Anglo Saxon period. Further analysis revealed signs of a physically active life ending violently with cuts to the neck.
Jim Stevenson, Project Manager for Archaeology South East, said: “Specialist osteological assessment and radiocarbon dating has revealed that the skeleton is most likely to be an execution burial of the later Anglo Saxon period of around 1010-1025 AD. Most significantly two cut marks made by a sharp blade or knife were found at the mid length of the neck, which would have proved fatal for the individual.”
Chris Tomlinson, Development and Stakeholder Manager for the Rampion Offshore Wind Farm, said: “We have been very intrigued by this unexpected Saxon discovery and it’s been fascinating to learn so much from the radiocarbon dating research and analysis about this person and how they met their end.”
The isolated burial was found along the ancient route of the South Downs Way in an area of known prehistoric graves recorded in the West Sussex Historic Environment Record. It is believed some were once identifiable as visible surface burial mounds and were excavated in the 18th and 19th centuries and sometimes coincide with isolated burials.
“Throughout consultation and construction, we have continued to work closely with the South Downs National Park Authority and West Sussex County Council to make sure all onshore activity is carried out in a responsible way,” added Chris Tomlinson.
Elizabeth Gent, Project Manager for the South Downs National Park Authority, said: “We are working very closely with Rampion and their contractors to ensure that the scheme causes minimal impact in the protected landscape of the South Downs National Park, taking account of the rich cultural heritage and important habitats. We are pleased to see this partnership working and the excellent care being taken in dealing with such important archaeological finds.”
The late Anglo Saxon remains were uncovered in 2015 during the wind farm construction process.
A full report of archaeology uncovered during construction including a complete analysis of the burial remains and other relics found along the cable route is due to be published by Archaeology South East in 2019-2020.
An extensive archaeology programme was undertaken as part of the Rampion onshore cable route. This included:
- a watching brief, with strip, map and sample investigations,
- full excavations and
- geoarchaeological investigations.
Archaeological remains spanning millennia from the late Neolithic through to the Bronze Age, Roman, mediaeval and post-medieval periods were uncovered and include finds of flint tools, pottery, pits and salt-working and watercress cultivation features.
An archaeology evening is being hosted by Rampion at the Ropetackle Arts Centre in Shoreham on Tuesday 12 June at 7pm.
A number of archaeological finds uncovered during construction will be on display including the vertebrae from the Saxon skeleton showing cut marks, as well as a selection of prehistoric, Roman and medieval pottery and various flint tools.
The event is free to attend and speakers from the wind farm, environmental consultants RSK, Wessex Archaeology and Archaeology South-East will be present.
For more information visit rampionoffshore.com/news/news-events/public-archaeology-event-on-june-12/
The Rampion Offshore Wind Farm, located 13km off the Sussex coast is due to be fully operational later this year. Once complete the project will provide enough electricity to supply almost 347,000 homes a year(1), equivalent to around half the homes in Sussex.
Notes to editors
= Based on an average annual domestic household electricity consumption of 3,938 kWh (BEIS).
The Rampion Offshore Wind Farm is jointly owned by E.ON, Canadian energy infrastructure company Enbridge and a consortium comprising of the Green Investment Group, Macquarie European Infrastructure Fund 5 and the Universities Superannuation Scheme;
More details about the Rampion Offshore Wind Farm including key facts and news updates, plus a photo and a video gallery can be found at rampionoffshore.com;
About the Saxon execution burial
An adult male,
Evidence of trauma was represented by a well-healed fracture on the left arm, evidence of stress on the vertebrae due to repeated bending/twisting motions and two cut marks located at the mid length of the neck. For the marks to be made the knife would have cut through all soft tissue of the neck and throat;
A sample of human bone from the skeleton was submitted to the US for radiocarbon dating. This indicated a very strong probability that the individual died before the Norman Conquest, during a time known as the Late Anglo Saxon period). The burial was seemingly isolated, and not located within a formal Christian graveyard, as would be expected for this period.The location and nature of the burial indicate that it relates to the execution of the individual due to some crime or misconduct;
A programme of Strontium Isotype Analysis will be carried out and it is hoped that further analysis will shed light on where this individual grew up and whether his death played a role in the formation of local territories.
For more information contact:
Victoria Blake, 02476 181304, email@example.com
Naomi Troy, 02476 180523, firstname.lastname@example.org