People around the country used photogrammetry to co-create a free, 3D database of Anglo-Saxon namestones
Anglo Saxon namestones or cross-slabs have been found in association with early monastic sites in the northeat region of England and are generally thought to be grave markers associated with Christian burials. This interpretation is supported by the fact they have been recovered from archaeological contexts in association with graves – most recently during DigVentures excavations at Lindisfarne. Since we started our excavations in 2016, we have recovered three gorgeous examples as well as early Christian sculpture. This is an amazing discovery and means we will be able to add extra information about the date, form and function of these enigmatic objects.
We’ll be building a whole virtual museum of the stones, but if you can’t wait for those you can follow these links to see the finds records from the finds we recovered during the excavations;
Interestingly, the names which we have been able to decipher from the Anglo-Saxon stones can tell us a lot about the Anglo-Saxon world. One example from Lindisfarne which was recovered in the north transept of the priory church bears the name Osgyth. It has been dated to between the mid 7th and the mid 8th century as the decoration and script resemble the St Matthew carpet page of the Lindisfarne Gospels. Osgyth is a female name, written twice on the namestone, once in Anglo Saxon runes and once in Anglo Saxon capital letters.
In 2016 the excavations run by DigVentures discovered another name, this time with a new Old English personal name: YÞFRIĐ. Although we don’t know if the name belonged to a woman or a man, the fact we have a new name is incredible. It is possible that the name hasn’t been spoken for 1000 years! On the other side of the stone the text forms the abbreviations for alpha and omega, the reference being to the biblical text Revelations XXII, 13.
“I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End”
We will be analysing the two latest namestones found from Lindisfarne over the coming months, looking for more clues about the people who lived and worked at the Monastery.
All the stones recovered have been buried for at least a few hundred years as the burial grounds changed and developed. howeverm age does not count for some of the script and design on the stones appearing to be very faint – some of them must have been difficult to read even when freshly carved.
Analysis undertaken in 2013 may help explain this. One of the Lindisfarne stones bears the male names Beanna and Pausil, written in Anglo-Saxon capital letters. Anglo-Saxon runes also spell part of another personal name, possibly Coena, on the upper half of the stone. Investigating the stone using X-ray fluorescence and magnification revealed that – amazingly – there was evidence of paint on its surface.
We now know that the stones would have been painted with a white base coat, and panels in reds, greens and black. In addition, the shallow depressions visible in the centre of some of the crosses carved on the stones may have been decorated with jewels – adding some serious bling.
Currently, there are 31 known stones – including the three which have been found from the recent Lindisfarne excavations. The largest number of the grave markers has come from Lindisfarne itself, and all from close to the current ruins of the Priory probably associated with the Anglo Saxon monastic centre. The second largest group has been recovered from Hartlepool, where eight stones have been found to date. Other finds have been made in Billingham (2), Birtley (1), Hart (1) and Monkwearmouth (2). Our project aims to bring together as many namestones as possible using high resolution photography and 3D modelling techniques to create an online exhibition. For the first time, everyone will be able to look at the objects side by side.
No nonsense. Just dig alerts and the insider's view on the week's biggest archaeological discoveries.