Duncan's Seminar

Tuesday night saw the Oakington project host its yearly seminar about the excavations so far; including the projects findings, what the settlement evidence suggests and what will happen after the physical excavation programme ends next week. We had an excellent turn out from the public; including both familiar and new faces. For those of you who couldn’t make it here’s a rundown of the evening:

Project History

The evening started with a brief run through of the history of the Anglo-Saxon cemetery excavations in Oakington. The first recorded remains were identified in 1926 by Alan Bloom during the ploughing of the field. Three sets of remains were identified; a male, a female and a child, who were recorded as being located ‘south-west of the church’.

It wasn’t until the 1993/94 excavations that the cemetery was rediscovered, with 24 sets of human remains being identified and later reburied in the burial vault (excavated by the Oakington dig project in 2012).
In 2007 archaeological work was undertaken in order to build the recreation centre, during this time a further 17 burials were excavated.

In the summer of 2010 the Oakington Dig project began as a research project with one of its aims to try and discover the full extent of the cemetery and understand more about the populations that lived and died in Anglo-Saxon Oakington. Our investigations have provided raised some interesting questions and new ideas too!

As mentioned in our previous blog post, some of our richest female burials share a common skeletal trait known as diastema, which is represented by a gap between the two front teeth and is something that may be familial. This could suggest that these richly adorned burials were related. We also have some evidence of remains with an extra vertebrae, also familial. These two groups of graves look to buried in different zones in the cemetery and so it might be that these individuals were part of different familial groups.

We also have interesting patterns in the distribution of grave goods across the cemetery due to typological differences. For example, long brooches and belt hangers in early and mid-6th century, and all of the combs are associated with the later burials.


In 2007 archaeologists excavated underneath the MUGA and on the site of the pavilion, digging 1m test pits covering 12% of the total area. During the excavation of these test pits 597 sherds of pottery were identified with just over 370 of them dating to the Saxon period. If we extrapolate that data to cover the entire area (as opposed to just the 12% excavated) we get a total figure of 5000 sherds being uncovered, and 3000 of them dating to the Saxon period. We can suggest from these figures that there is a significant amount of Saxon pottery being identified, which may fit in line with concepts of settlement on the land at Oakington.

A series of test pits have also been excavated over the years in Oakington, with the count currently at around 59. There are some more test pits planned for the areas that have not been excavated in order to understand the size of the settlement that may have existed. If we consider the evidence so far, combined with the geophysics we can suggest that the settlement was smaller and more concentrated during the 8th century, expanding outwards in the 12th century to incorporate more land.

The early Anglo-Saxons located their cemetery next to an old Roman road. It was during the mid Saxon period that the land use started to change; small enclosures and buildings begin to appear over a larger area. During the later period, large ditches begin to appear in order to separate land, and control cattle and other forms of livestock.

Post-Excavation and Future

Even though the physical excavation ends on Sunday (13th July) there is still much more work that needs to be undertaken during the post-excavation phases in order to understand the site enough for research and publication. Therefore, the Oakington Dig project doesn’t stop with the ending of the excavation itself and there is a big list of things still left to do;

  • Artefact conservation
  • Skeletal analysis
  • Ancient DNA
  • Object illustrator/photography
  • Animal bone analysis
  • Environmental samples
  • Radio carbon data
  • Dentition – biological variability
  • Lithics and pottery analysis
  • Landscape analysis

The aim is to have the project published by 2019-20, but during the post-excavation and writing window we will continue to update our blog and social media platforms to keep you all up to date with how the project is going, and also to get your input into the work we’ll be doing.

We’ll be having a party at the White Horse this Friday (11th July) from 8pm and everyone is welcome. Please join us in saying goodbye to the village, and take the opportunity to ask any questions you may have for any of our archaeologists.