A 1,300-year-old gold cross which was found buried with the body of an aristocratic Anglo-Saxon teenager is to go on display for the first time.
The Trumpington Cross, made of gold and garnet, was discovered on the skeleton of a female between the ages of 14 and 18 who was laid to rest in an extremely rare ‘bed burial’ ceremony.
Only a handful of Anglo-Saxon bed burials – in which the deceased person is buried in the ground, lying on a bed – have ever been discovered in the UK, and the pectoral cross is only the fifth of its type found to date.
Following its discovery in 2011, the £80,000 artefact has now been gifted to the Cambridge University’s Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology (MAA).
It will now be displayed in Cambridge – just a few miles from where it was unearthed at Trumpington Meadows.
It’s believed 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 was undoubtedly of aristocratic or even royal status.
She was also found to be buried with treasured possessions including gold and garnet pins, an iron knife, glass beads and a chain which would have hung off her belt.
But it was the unexpected presence of the cross – which marks the teenage girl as an early convert to Christianity.
Jody Joy, Senior Curator at the museum, said: “MAA has one of the best collections of Anglo-Saxon artefacts in the British Isles – and we are indebted to Grosvenor for their generosity in allowing this beautiful, mysterious artefact to remain in Cambridge.
“The Trumpington Cross and other material recovered from the dig are of international quality and significance – but with the strongest connections to Cambridge and the surrounding settlements.
“Taking pride of place in our galleries, the cross will allow us to tell the story of the coming of Christianity to the region and some of the history of this previously unknown Anglo-Saxon settlement – as well as 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.”
“Our ultimate goal is to ensure that the importance of this magnificent and mysterious cross is recognised locally, nationally and internationally through research, exhibition and publication.
“The Trumpington Cross offers unique insights into the origins of English Christianity and we feel very lucky to be able to put it on display at the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology just a few, short miles away from where this beautiful artefact was discovered.”
Alex Robinson, Development Director at Grosvenor Britain & Ireland, said: “We were delighted to donate the ‘Trumpington Cross’ to the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology.
“Our long-standing commitment to Cambridge and our long-term investment in the growing neighbourhood of Trumpington Meadows demanded no less.
“The museum’s publicly-available exhibitions are an incredibly effective and moving confirmation of our shared past and our common interest in sustaining a lasting legacy.”