The "Saxon Warrior" burial

The following is the text and selected illustrations from the report on the burial produced by Northamptonshire Archaeology in 2000, and reproduced here with their kind permission. Northamptonshire Archaeology is a service provided by Services Northamptonshire, part of the Northamptonshire County Council.

September 2000


After their initial discovery by two metal detector users, Northamptonshire Archaeology carried out an archaeological excavation of two burials, one containing a sword at Whitehall Farm. Based upon the type of sword it is likely that the burials date from the sixth - seventh centuries AD.


Northamptonshire Archaeology carried out an emergency excavation of two burials in September 2000 on land at Whitehall Farm Nether Heyford. The burials were discovered when an associated sword was found by two metal detector users.

The find was examined by Steve Young, who confirmed the presence of human remains and contacted Northamptonshire Heritage for advice. Northamptonshire Archaeology was then commissioned to carry out an emergency excavation of the burials and associated remains. The burials were excavated under Home Office Licence Number 26613, issued on the 7 September 2000.

The purpose of the excavation was to excavate and record the remains, as there was a continued threat from plough damage.


A trench c.1.4m x 2.4m was excavated over the find spot to uncover the remains of the burial associated with the sword. The burial Gl was located in a shallow grave of c.1.8m x 0.75m cut into a compact sandy yellowish / brown subsoil which contained a large percentage of rounded gravel, the grave cut was not clear.

The interment was a semi-crouched inhumation of a juvenile male orientated west east. The skull had been crushed and a plough furrow had removed the base of the pelvis. The legs and the upper body appeared to be lying on the left side, the lumber vertebrae were in a supine position; the upper vertebrae were twisted. The third lumber vertebrae had been displaced to the north. The proximal epiphysis on the left tibia had not fused. The legs of the burial may have been placed in the grave bent at the knee. The right hand of the burial was placed over the pelvis; the left hand was placed above the right over the chest.

A stain showed the position of the sword previously removed by the metal detector users suggesting that it had been originally placed on the right side of the body in the grave. Located near the third lumber vertebrae was a small knife, which was possibly on a belt around the man's waist.

To the west the fragmentary remains of another burial G2 comprising only pelvic remains and the lower vertebrae. The burial was possibly a later grave partly overlying Gl though medieval and more recent ploughing had subsequently destroyed the relationship. From the extant remains the skeleton is thought to be a female.

The sword replaced next to the skeleton


The sword associated with the burial Gl was examined by Rhiannon Harte of Northamptonshire Heritage and identified as being Saxon perhaps of a 6th/7th -century date. A Saxon brooch was also recovered from the plough soil away from the site by the metal detectorists. This, with the sword and the knife, were sent to the British Museum for X-ray.

A small number of nails and possible rivets of indeterminate date were found in the plough soil above the burial Gl. No further artefacts were discovered associated with either of the burials.

The sword after conservation


The excavation recorded and removed the two burials, so that they would not be damaged further by the plough. The major finds were sent to the British Museum and a report on the results of the X-rays is awaited.


Project Manager: Steve Parry MA, MIFA
Text: Tim Upson-Smith BA, PG Dip
Fieldwork: Mark Holmes MA, Steve Williams BSc, and Steve Young
Illustrations: Tim Upson-Smith & Peter Masters BA, HND, PIFA

Copyright of this web site, including all text and images (except where otherwise stated), belongs to The Whitehall Farm Roman Villa and Landscape Project. No part of this website may be reproduced in any form without the prior permission of the Project.

Web site design and construction by oliomedia