Clues from the grave

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I have always been interested in the Anglo Saxons who dominated England before the coming of the Normans and it’s astonishing how long they ruled. The great Anglo Saxon historian Bede said that his people were descended from three Germanic tribes – the Angles, Saxons and Jutes.They migrated from northern Germany and Scandinavia from the 5th century onwards, seeking better lives in the fertile lands of England. They subdued the native people, the Celts.

At one time it was thought that the Celts literally fled to the hills and moors to form distinct Welsh, Scottish and Cornish peoples. However, most historians now agree that the native Celts were assimilated into the new Anglo Saxon kingdoms from 400 onwards. These lasted around 600 years until William of Normandy invaded England and defeated the last Anglo Saxon king, Harold II, at the Battle of Hastings in 1066.

Woman and man dressed as Anglo Saxons

Anglo Saxon enthusiasts Linda and Sonnie Raee

This Sunday 19 July 2009 from 11am to 4pm visitors have a chance to meet the nearest you will get to a real Anglo Saxon, at an exciting free event called 'Clues from the Grave' at World Museum Liverpool. Part of the Festival of British Archaeology, it features a group of Anglo-Saxons carrying out a burial in the museum’s Weston Discovery Centre.

You can find out what the clues in the grave tell us about the lives of people who lived in England more than 1,000 years ago. Visitors can also discover how these ancient peoples used leeches, what they ate, their clothes, weapons and much more.

I met two of the Anglo Saxon enthusiasts when we did a media photo opportunity to promote the event. Linda and Sonnie Raee, of Wallasey, are pictured at the museum entrance. They are wearing authentic Anglo-Saxon style clothes and carrying weapons essential in those far-off days. Sonnie says: “Clues from the Grave gives an insight into the world of the Anglo Saxons. Visitors get a sense of what it was like to live in a very different England.”

My ancestors probably came over with William the Conqueror and I wonder what they made of their new home – the most beautiful islands on earth. I love the names of those long-gone Anglo Saxon kings – Egbert, Aethelwulf, Ethelred (the Unready) and Eadwig along with the more familiar Alfred, Edward, Edmund and Harold. It is a joy to occasionally come across people with ancient names in our own time.