Pagan burials containing rare pieces of jewellery and other graves goods have been found in a small Saxon Cemetery near Leighton Buzzard.
The excavation began after chance find by a local metal-detectorist of some Anglo-Saxon shield bosses dating from around AD600.
To protect the site from night-hawks during the excavation a member of the Leighton Buzzard and District Archaeological and Historical Society slept in a tent on the site for two weeks.
Following a geophysical survey of the area, members of the society led by site director, Bernard Jones, have completed a two-week excavation which has revealed the graves of four individuals, one female and three males. They appear to have been quite young, within the age range of 15 to 25 years old.
One of the males had suffered a broken left leg during his lifetime which had healed but had become infected and caused an abscess. This left him with a shortened leg.
Two of the males were buried with shields but only the central iron bosses remained, the actual shields were probably made of wood and leather but these had not survived. Each also had a knife buried with them.
There was no evidence of any coffins and it is likely they were buried wearing a cloak or a shroud as there was a pin and some metal studs in the upper part of the chests which could have been for fastening the material.
The female was buried with some jewellery including a bronze pin and, two brooches which were probably fixed to the upper part her cloak and a single glass bead, possibly suspended around her neck. She also had a bone comb which she may have been holding with her left hand.
A society spokesman said: “The finds will now be researched and conserved. A scientific study of the skeletons will be carried out before they are re-interred. It is also planned to obtain an isotopic analysis of the bones or teeth to find out where they came from, and radiocarbon dates to estimate when they died.
“Exact details of the location of the dig have been kept secret at the landowners request in order to avoid treasure hunters.”
Further details of the excavation will be included in the society’s journal, Transactions, which will be published next April.