ANGLO-SAXON: THE LADY

A number of Anglo-Saxon artefacts excavated from The Meads are displayed in The Heritage Hub in The Forum shopping centre, Sittingbourne. These include: brightly-coloured beads made of amber, pottery and glass; replicas of two glass beakers and a sword which, although fragile and rusty, still bears a faint trace of its maker’s mark etched in gold. I also drew inspiration from material supplied by the Anglo-Saxon CSI conservation project and Sittingbourne Heritage Museum.

I felt safe in the ground, surrounded by our men, battle-ready, armed with sword, spear and shield. Even in death, they guarded me. I lay among them, quietly sleeping, a fine brooch upon my breast, gift of my husband; a disc like the sun, glowing with gold, inlaid with garnet. I was the envy of women, the desire of men, until my body became earth-bound, mingling with soil.

For centuries, I rested, undisturbed by the scratchings of brick-makers whose shovels scraped the clay above my head, thinning the veil that hid me from the world.

Yet no-one found me, encircled by my kin, protected by spells and charms. But magic wears thin with age.

One day, the ground shook: a crashing of giant’s feet, a mighty battle raging overhead. Silence. A tiny pinhole of light. Discovery.

They took my brooch, dug up my bones, prepared me for the dread day of judgement. I lay exposed, my spirit uneasy as they held me in their hands.

Gently they washed me, laid me out, measured me, then packed me in a box and took me to a great hall. Not the meeting-place of my fathers, filled with singing and stories, but a chamber of silence, packed with the dead.

They wheeled me along a great aisle, around a corner, into a passage and laughed as they slid me onto a shelf.

“It’s like Indiana Jones,” one said.

“And the Ark of the Covenant,” replied the other.

In the darkness, I hear the whispering of my kin.

Where are we? Why are we here?

Photograph: An archaeologist excavating one of the Anglo-Saxon graves at The Meads, Sittingbourne. Courtesy of Canterbury Archaeological Trust.