Lindisfarne’s early monastery was at the heart of Anglo-Saxon power and politics. It was a major population centre, a hub of cultural influence and a place of fusion between the Roman and Irish religious worlds. Finding any evidence of the earliest monastic community on Lindisfarne will offer huge insight into the lives of those who masterminded its golden age, and who endured the Viking attacks.
Although there have been previous excavations on Lindsfarne, most of the evidence collected has been from other time periods, or from the periphery of where the early monastery is likely to have been located. The most common artefacts from the period of the monastery that had been found thus far are stone carvings, scattered around the island.
That was until 2016, when a marvelous set of geophysics, provided by Dr David Petts at Durham University, pinpointed two locations as likely to be structural remains from Oswald and Aidan’s monastery. With help from hundreds of crowdfunders, DigVentures started digging, and began the first full-blown search for the monastery.
We found an Anglo-Saxon namestone inscribed with a previously unknown name, the outline of several early medieval buildings, the first evidence for a cemetery associated with the monastery, including two stone-lined burials, plenty of pottery, and a silver coin minted during the reign of King Eadberht, as well as some curious bone artefacts which seem to be proof that some people continued to live on the island long after the monastery was supposedly abandoned.
The discoveries our crowdfunders made last year were so significant that they featured in the Guardian, The Times, The Daily Mail and on BBC4’s Digging For Britain programme – this was the very first time any crowdfunded discovery had been featured on the show!
As amazing as all these discoveries are, they are just the beginning. We know without a shadow of a doubt that there’s plenty more waiting to be found, all of which will add to our understanding of a transformative moment in history. And that’s why this dig matters!