Three ancient burials have been unearthed during archaeological work at Lichfield Cathedral.
The discoveries were made by a team from Cambrian Archaeological Projects Limited led by Kevin Blockley during investigations into the Chapter House ahead of the arrival of the Staffordshire Hoard touring exhibition later this year.
The building was constructed in the 1240s and required a terrace to be dug into an existing graveyard on the north side of the Cathedral.
“Two burials are evidently Christian as they were aligned east-west. The fact that the burials were in shrouds, not coffins suggests that they involved lay members of the Cathedral community. One skeleton, of an adult male, was removed for analysis and will later be reburied in accordance with current guidelines. Parts of this skeleton (skull, lower jaw, one femur and both feet) were missing, almost certainly because it was damaged during the construction of the Chapter House in the 1240s. The second skeleton lay just below the construction level. It has been left in situ.”
The third burial appears originally to have taken place in medieval times, after the Chapter House was completed. It was subsequently disturbed during renovations to the building during the Victorian period, and reburied. This burial was of an infant, presumably associated with a more high status individual within the Cathedral community. It is not possible to establish who this was, although carbon testing might narrow down the original burial date.
The Revd Dr Pete Wilcox, Canon Chancellor of Lichfield Cathedral, added:
“In order to prepare the Chapter House to host a display of over forty items from the Staffordshire Hoard in July and August, we had to lift up sections of the floor, where cabling for new display cases will be laid. Past digs in the Cathedral have unearthed priceless treasures, such as the Lichfield Angel, and we have been looking forward to this investigation.
“We are very grateful to Kevin and Cambrian Archaeological Projects Limited for the extreme professionalism with which theyhave conducted the dig during this past fortnight, and we are grateful to visitors for their patience while the Chapter House has been inaccessible.
“We are very excited about the prospect of exhibiting iconic items from the Staffordshire Hoard in the summer. It is an intriguing possibility that these beautiful pieces of gold and garnet Saxon jewellery will be displayed only feet above what we now know may have been a place of Saxon burial.”
For further information about the Staffordshire Hoard exhibition, visit www.staffordshirehoard.org.uk.