The Museum of London Archaeology (MOLA) announced in a press release Wednesday the finding of a female grave with an ornate necklace and face mask, in Northamptonshire.
The hoard, dubbed the Harpole Treasure, is believed to be one of the most significant and richest discoveries in the United Kingdom.
The Vistry Group house builders commissioned a search of the area before beginning construction at the site. There, on the final day of excavations, archaeologists discovered a grave, which they believe to be female, though only fragments of tooth enamel remain. The burial would have taken place between 630–70 CE.
Among the finds was an extravagant 30-piece necklace with a number of pendants made of gold Roman coins, as well as semi-precious stones and decorated glass pendants set in gold. A large rectangular pendant made of red garnets and gold with a cross motif would have been the centerpiece.
Additionally, a large cross was found and is still being excavated, along with unusual silver casts of a human face with blue glass eyes. Archaeologists believe that the size of the cross suggests that the woman may have been an early Christian leader.
“When the first glints of gold started to emerge from the soil we knew this was something significant, said site supervisor Levente-Bence Balázs in the release. “However, we didn’t quite realise how special this was going to be.”
Together, these finds comprise one of the richest discoveries of its kind ever uncovered in Britain and offers a glimpse into the unparalleled craftsmanship of the early Medieval period.
The team plans to further identify the surviving organic material and study the cross and necklace.